Pediatricians and public health researchers know they have to be on the lookout for lead exposure from paint chips and contaminated drinking water. A new report suggests food — particularly baby food — could be a problem, too.
The Environmental Defense Fund, in an analysis of 11 years of federal data, found detectable levels of lead in 20 percent of 2,164 baby food samples. The toxic metal was most commonly found in fruit juices such as grape and apple, root vegetables such as sweet potatoes and carrots, and cookies such as teething biscuits.
The organization’s primary focus was on the baby foods because of how detrimental lead can be to child development.
“Lead can have a number of effects on children and it’s especially harmful during critical windows of development,” said Dr. Aparna Bole, pediatrician at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, who was not involved with the report. “The largest burden that we often think about is neurocognitive that can occur even at low levels of lead exposure.”
Lead can cause problems with attention and behavior, cognitive development, the cardiovascular system and immune system, Bole said.