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Lead and cadmium contamination in a large sample of United States infant formulas and baby foods

Gardener, Hannah, Bowen, Jaclyn, Callan, Sean P.
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.651 pp. 822-827
World Health Organization, beverages, cadmium, electrolytes, food contamination, guidelines, heavy metals, infant formulas, infants, jars, juices, kinetic energy, lead, pouches, rice, snacks, toxicity, California
Data is limited on lead and cadmium contamination in baby food, a population uniquely susceptible to the toxic effects of heavy metals. The goal of this study was to examine lead and cadmium concentrations in a large convenience sample of US baby foods. We identified the number of baby food product samples that exceeded US FDA and California Proposition 65 limits for daily lead consumption across a range of servings/calories, and the number of samples that exceeded World Health Organization and California Proposition 65 limits for daily cadmium consumption across a range of servings/calories. In total, 564 baby foods were tested across infant and toddler formula, cereals, meals, juices/drinks, jars, pouches, snacks, and electrolyte water. ICP-MS analysis of lead and cadmium was completed using a modified version of EPA method 6020A. Samples were analyzed using kinetic energy distribution mode. Lead was detected in 37% of samples (median = non-detect, 75% = 5.6, maximum = 183.6 μg/kg), and cadmium in 57% (25% = non-detect, median = 2.8, 75% = 9.5, maximum = 103.90 μg/kg). Of 91 infant formula samples, none exceeded FDA lead consumption guidelines in 31 oz, but 22% exceeded the Proposition 65 lead guidelines, 23% exceeded the Proposition 65 cadmium guidelines, and 14% exceeded the WHO tolerable cadmium intake levels for a four-month-old baby. In the solid baby food samples, 1% exceeded FDA lead guidelines in two servings (26% exceeded CA Proposition 65 limits), 3% in 300 cal (34% exceeded CA Proposition 65 limits). For cadmium, 6% exceeded Proposition 65 guidelines in two servings, 8% in 300 cal. There was no association between whether the product was certified organic and its heavy metal concentration. Products containing rice were higher in both lead and cadmium concentrations. Further research is needed to understand the long-term health effects of this chronic daily low level heavy metal exposure in babies.