Q: How do I avoid heavy metals in the foods I feed my baby?

A: The news about the heavy metals in baby food raised many questions for parents.

Low levels of heavy metals in infant food are likely to account for a relatively small proportion of the overall risk of a child’s exposure to toxic metals. However, exposure from all sources should be minimized. Exposure to toxic metals can be harmful to the developing brain. It is related to learning, cognition and behavior problems. However, it’s important to remember that many genetic, social and environmental factors contribute to healthy brain development, and exposure to toxic metals is just one of them.

Metals occur naturally in the earth’s crust. They are also released into our environment as pollutants and end up in the water and soil used to grow food. Metals can also get into food during food production and packaging. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, some of the most common metals that enter food include inorganic arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury.

Stronger rules and regulations for testing and limiting heavy metals in baby and toddler foods are important, but parents can now take several steps to reduce their children’s risk of exposure to toxic metals in their diets and other sources:

– Serve a Variety of Foods: Provide your child with a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables (wash them in cold water before preparing and serving), grains, and lean protein. Eating a variety of healthy foods that are rich in essential nutrients can reduce your exposure to toxic metals and other contaminants found in certain foods.

– Read the labels: Multi-ingredient baby food formulas can be a good option. However, remember that many people have the same first or second ingredient. Various flavor blends such as kale / pear and spinach / pumpkin may actually contain sweet potato as the first ingredient. It’s important to read the ingredient label to be sure you are offering a real variety of foods.

– Upgrade Your Grains: Fortified baby cereals can be a good food source for babies, but rice flakes don’t have to be the first or only grain used. Rice tends to absorb more arsenic from groundwater than other crops. You can include a variety of grains in your child’s diet, including oats, barley, couscous, quinoa, farro, and bulgur. Multigrain flakes for babies can be a good choice. Try to avoid rice milk and brown rice syrup, which are sometimes used as a sweetener in processed baby food. Brown rice has more arsenic than other rice. Be sure to rinse the rice thoroughly before cooking, use extra water and strain before serving.

– Check your water: Heavy metals can get into your tap water. For example, arsenic can contaminate well water, and older pipes can contain lead. You can contact your local health department to have the water tested if this is a problem.

– Breastfeeding, when possible: Breastfeeding, rather than formula-feeding, can also help reduce exposure to toxic metals. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding as the sole source of nutrition for your baby for about six months.

– Avoid fruit juice: give toddlers and toddlers sliced ​​or mashed whole fruit instead of juice. Some fruit juices may contain some level of heavy metals. Additionally, the juice is high in sugar and is not as rich in nutrients as whole fruit. Use breastmilk or formula for infants under 6 months of age, and use water and milk from the age of 1.

– Make healthy choices for your fish: Some types of fish can contain high levels of mercury called methylmercury and other metals. Most disturbing are large, predatory fish that eat other fish and live longer, such as shark, orange roughy, swordfish, and albacore tuna. Eating too much contaminated fish can harm your baby’s developing nervous system. But fish are also an excellent source of protein and other nutrients that babies need, and many are low in mercury. Look for better options like light tuna (solid or chunks), salmon, cod, whitefish, and pollock.

– Variety is also important with homemade baby food: preparing your own baby food can be cost effective, it can help avoid potential contamination during processing or packaging, and the ingredients can be selected. However, keep in mind that offering a wide variety of foods is just as important when making your own baby food as when purchasing ready-made baby foods.

– Address the risks of lead in your home: There are other important ways to reduce your child’s exposure to toxic metals. The most common source of lead exposure is, for example, the peeling or chipping paint from older homes. Soil, some cosmetics and spices, water, and some jobs and hobbies can also be sources of exposure. More information about leads can be found at https://bit.ly/3qZqtAy.

– Do not smoke or e-cigarette: Passive and third-party smoking of both regular and e-cigarettes can expose children to metals such as cadmium and lead. Vaporization allows toxic metals from the vaporization coils to enter the air and be inhaled. Secondhand smoke also contains harmful chemicals that can increase your risk of c*ncer.

Organic baby food may contain lower levels of certain pesticides and other chemicals. Because heavy metals are found in soil and can enter processed foods through processing, organic foods often contain similar levels of heavy metals to non-organic foods.

Until more is known about metals in baby food, experts say there is no need to test babies. Tests that check your child’s hair for exposure to toxic metals are also not recommended as these types of tests are scientifically unproven and often inaccurate.

If you are concerned about heavy metals in baby food, talk to your pediatrician. Your regional Pediatric Specialist Unit for Environmental Health has staff who can also talk about environmental toxin issues.

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ABOUT THE WRITER

Dr. Aaron Bernstein is chairman of the Environmental Health and Climate Change Council of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital. For more information, go to ZdroweDzieci.orgwebsite for parents with AAP.

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