In the winter of 2021, a congressional report with infuriating results was made public. The investigation found outrageous concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury in the baby food of four popular baby food companies. Initially, seven baby food manufacturers had been asked to participate in the investigation by sharing their internal practices and heavy metal test results. Some baby food manufacturers refused to collaborate.
How Are Heavy Metals in Baby Food and Autism Linked?
Ingesting arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury from baby food can lead to neurotoxicity, a process that interferes with the normal activity of the nervous system, including the brain. Neurotoxicity can eventually disrupt or even kill neurons, which are vital cells transmitting and processing signals in the brain and other areas of the nervous system. Children are particularly vulnerable to the negative impact of heavy metals because they have a greater rate of nutrient uptake by the gastrointestinal tract and undeveloped detoxification systems.
In America, 1 in 54 children born after 2008 has autism, and the average age of diagnosis is 5. From 2007 to 2012, the prevalence of the disorder rose from 1.16% to 2.00% in the country. The content of heavy metals in baby food has increased in the past few decades, so this can be seen as evidence that toxic infant and toddler food dramatically contributes to the development of autism. A recent study found that the concentration of heavy metals in a child’s body may contribute to the development of autism. Focusing on lead, researchers examined the shed teeth of children and found that those with autism had significantly higher concentrations of information throughout their development than those without the disorder.
How Parents Can Lower Their Child’s Intake of Heavy Metals from Baby Food
While you cannot avoid heavy metals in your baby’s food altogether, you can take some practical, easy steps to reduce their intake of neurotoxins. The following are a few useful tips on how you can minimize your child’s exposure to arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury from baby food.
Breastfeed Your Newborn for as Long as Possible
Perhaps the most important thing you can do as a new mother is to breastfeed your child for as long as possible if you are able. Numerous studies have found that breastfed children are seven times more likely to maintain a healthy weight and have considerably fewer gastrointestinal, ear, respiratory, and urinary infections than those given formula. Moreover, nursing can reduce your baby’s risk of asthma, diabetes, and sudden infant death syndrome. Data across all ethnic groups show that Black mothers are among a handful of ethnic groups least likely to breastfeed, and therefore more likely to use packaged baby food products. And though many mothers cannot breastfeed, either for physical reasons or they just have to go back to work, there are still healthy alternatives to breastfeeding.
“Data across all ethnic groups show that Black mothers are among a handful of ethnic groups least likely to breastfeed, and therefore more likely to use packaged baby food products.”
Replace Commercial Baby Food with These Alternatives for 80% Less Heavy Metal Content
The following advice comes from the 2019 study of the non-profit organization Healthy Babies Bright Futures. It is an excellent way of reducing your baby’s intake of heavy metals from stored food:
- replace rice puff snacks with rice-free snacks to lower the heavy metals level by 93%
- replace teething biscuits with a frozen banana or chilled cucumber to reduce the heavy metal content by 91%
- replace infant rice cereal with other infant cereals, such as multi-grain and oatmeal, to lower the heavy metals level by 84%
- replace fruit juice with tap water to reduce the heavy metal content by 68%
- replace carrots and sweet potatoes with a variety of other fruits and vegetables to lower the heavy metals level by 73%
Choose the Fish You Feed Your Toddler Carefully
As you probably know, fish is one of the primary sources of mercury. Luckily, not all types of fish contain dangerous levels of mercury. Consequently, when it is time to introduce solid foods in your child’s diet, you should avoid feeding your toddler king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, tilefish, swordfish, ahi tuna, and bigeye tuna. Instead, it would be best to give them fish like canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, catfish, salmon, trout, and herring.
Fish is an excellent source of lean protein and essential nutrients, such as vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and minerals such as magnesium, zinc, and iron. Other fish and seafood you can safely feed your toddler if they do not have any food allergies are shrimp, cod, scallops, crab, tilapia, whitefish, trout, perch, flounder, sardines, anchovy, crawfish, oyster, and lobster.
Lower the Rice Intake of Your Baby
Finally, to minimize the intake of arsenic you feed your child, you should tackle the significant source of arsenic – rice. Rice crops absorb 10 to 20 times more arsenic from water and soil than other crops because of the structure of the cereal and because of the excess of water these crops are often grown in. To avoid rice, you can replace it with other equally nourishing cereals, such as oat, rye, wheat, barley, sorghum, quinoa, maize, and soy.
When preparing rice for your child, which should be a rare occasion, you should rinse it thoroughly multiple times and cook it in plenty of water. Then, drain off the extra water to reduce the arsenic concentration. Another tip for rice is feeding your baby sushi rice or basmati rice, which contains significantly less arsenic. Once again, make sure your child does not have any cereal allergies to avoid an emergency trip to the hospital.
Please know that children are especially susceptible to toxic exposures of any kind, whether from heavy metals in baby foods, harsh chemicals in household cleaning supplies. They can absorb contaminants through eating, breathing, or through their skin at almost a rate four times higher than an adult. Combine this with the continued development of their small brains and bodies, and you can see how important it is to be mindful of what they eat, drink, breathe in, and bathe in. We all want the safest and brightest future for our children.
About the Author
Jonathan Sharp, Chief Financial Officer, has been part of the legal team of Environmental Litigation Group, P.C., for over 20 years. His primary responsibilities include client relations, financial analysis, collecting and distributing all funds, case evaluation, and managing firm assets. Jonathan Sharp finds his job rewarding, as he can help people whose health was permanently affected by toxic agents obtain the compensation they deserve.