Thousands of Superfund sites exist around the U.S., with toxic substances left open, mismanaged and dumped. Despite the high levels of toxicity at these sites, nearly 21 million people live within a mile of one of them, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Currently, more than 1,300 Superfund sites pose a serious health risk to nearby communities. Based on a new study, residents living close to these sites could also have a shorter life expectancy.
Published in Nature Communications, the study, led by Hanadi S. Rifai, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Houston, and a team of researchers, found that living in nearby zip codes to Superfund sites resulted in a decreased life expectancy of more than two months, the University of Houston reported.
"We have ample evidence that contaminant releases from anthropogenic sources (e.g., petrochemicals or hazardous waste sites) could increase the mortality rate in fence-line communities," Rifai told the University of Houston. "Results showed a significant difference in life expectancy among census tracts with at least one Superfund site and their neighboring tracts with no sites."
The study pulled data from 65,000 census tracts – defined geographical regions – within the contiguous U.S., The Guardian reported. With this data, researchers found that for communities that are socioeconomically challenged, this life expectancy could decrease by up to a year.
"It was a bit surprising and concerning," Rifai told The Guardian. "We weren't sure [when we started] if the fact that you are socioeconomically challenged would make [the Superfund's effects] worse."
The research team, for example, found that the presence of a Superfund site in a census tract with a median income of less than $52,580 could reduce life expectancy by seven months, the University of Houston reported.
Many of these toxic sites were once used as manufacturing sites during the Second World War. Common toxic substances that are released from the sites into the air and surface water include lead, trichlorethylene, chromium, benzene and arsenic – all of which can lead to health impacts, such as neurological damage among children, The Union of Concerned Scientists wrote in a blog.
"The EPA has claimed substantial recent progress in Superfund site cleanups, but, contrary to EPA leadership's grandiose declarations, the backlog of unfunded Superfund cleanups is the largest it has been in the last 15 years," the Union wrote.
Delayed cleanup could become increasingly dangerous as climate change welcomes more natural hazards, like wildfires and flooding. According to a Government Accountability Office report, for example, climate change could threaten at least 60 percent of Superfund sites in the U.S., AP News reported.
During the summer of 2018, a major wildfire took over the Iron Mountain Superfund site near Redding, CA, ruining wastewater treatment infrastructure that is responsible for capturing 168 million gallons of acid mine drainage every month, NBC News reported.
"There was this feeling of 'My God. We ought to have better tracking of wildfires at Superfund locations,'" Stephen Hoffman, a former senior environmental scientist at the EPA, told NBC News. "Before that, there wasn't a lot of thought about climate change and fire. That has changed."
In the study, researchers also looked at the impacts of floodings on Superfund sites, which could send toxins flowing into communities and waterways.
"When you add in flooding, there will be ancillary or secondary impacts that can potentially be exacerbated by a changing future climate," Rifai told the University of Houston. "The long-term effect of the flooding and repetitive exposure has an effect that can transcend generations."
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By Quinn McVeigh
The study, published in Applied Geochemistry, found that almost every groundwater sample across 32 U.S. aquifers had detectable strontium levels, while 2.3 percent exceeded 4 milligrams per liter (mg/L), the maximum amount that people should consume routinely, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The public and private wells extending from these aquifers provide drinking water for 2.3 million people.
While low amounts of natural strontium are safe and even beneficial for the human body, these high concentrations can stunt bone growth in children who lack adequate calcium intake. Strontium can replace calcium in bones, weakening them and limiting development, according to Sarah Yang, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services' groundwater toxicologist.
"We're more worried about infants and children because their bones are actively growing," Yang told EHN. "Generally infants and children can absorb more strontium in their intestines, and adults can't."
High strontium in drinking water is linked to rickets in children, an extremely rare skeletal condition causing soft, sometimes deformed, bones.
Strontium, a soft metal that originates from minerals like celestine, makes its way into drinking water naturally. Aquifers with high strontium concentrations are often surrounded by carbonate rock containing limestone and dolomite.
In the USGS study, author MaryLynn Musgrove, a research physical scientist, found that 86 percent of people exposed to high strontium levels drink water supplied by carbonate rock aquifers. More than half of them are using Florida's underground reservoirs, where some freshwater has been blending with limestone and dolomite for 26,000 years.
Texas' carbonate aquifers also stood out.The Edwards-Trinity aquifer system, a sandstone and carbonate formation spanning from Oklahoma to western Texas, had the most frequent occurrence of high strontium concentrations in its corresponding wells.
Dolomite is abundant in the bedrock of eastern Wisconsin, where strontium levels are among the highest of U.S. drinking water supplies.
While the USGS study mainly looked at areas exceeding 4 mg/L of strontium in samples, some communities living atop these dolomite layers drink water with more than 25 mg/L, the one-day health advisory limit for children.
"We have a lot of communities that have values above 20, 30, 50 mg/L," John Luczaj, a professor of geosciences at University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, told EHN.
Removal of Strontium From Drinking Water
While its radioactive sibling, strontium-90, is regulated, natural strontium contamination is unregulated by the EPA.
The major dilemma, according to Victor Rivera-Diaz, a writer and researcher for Save the Water, is that it is still a "public health mystery." While some research has conclusively linked strontium to bone degradation, a lack of data has kept the EPA from regulating it under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
"It is a problem," Rivera-Diaz told EHN. "It definitely requires more attention, even more so in the areas that are prone to high contamination."
But this is easier said than done, Rivera-Diaz explained.
Strontium cannot be removed with conventional water treatment technology. Thus, communities would have to look to other systems, such as point-of-entry reverse osmosis.
"Some of these technologies can be quite costly, so that might be a barrier for lower-income communities," Rivera-Diaz said.
Reverse osmosis systems and water softeners are incredibly effective in removing strontium concentrations.
"If it was up to me, I would, in the short term, figure out a way to subsidize technologies that are proven to filter out strontium, especially in those communities where those levels are well above 4 mg/L," Rivera-Diaz said.
Reposted with permission from Environmental Health News.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
The study, published in Environmental Research last week, found that children were more likely to develop central nervous system (CNS) tumors if their mothers had lived within 2.5 miles of land where pesticides were being sprayed when they were born.
"This study is the first, to our knowledge, to estimate effects for a large number of specific pesticides in relation to CNS tumor subtypes," Julia Heck, a study coauthor and the associate dean for research at the University of North Texas College of Health and Public Service said, as NBC Los Angeles reported.
The research looked at the California Cancer Registry to identify cases of certain cancers in children under six years old, the study explained. They focused on mothers who lived in rural areas and gave birth between 1998 and 2011 to identify 667 cases of childhood central nervous system tumors and 123,158 controls. They then compared these cases to data from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation's (CDPR) Pesticide Use Reporting (PUR) system to identify whether chemicals classed as possible carcinogens by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had been sprayed within 2.5 miles of the mothers' homes at birth.
One important implication of the study is that the mothers did not have to be directly working in agriculture in order for their children to face dangerous exposure.
"California's agricultural work force numbers more than 800,000, according to state estimates," Dr. Christina Lombardi, study co-author and epidemiologist with the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, told Beyond Pesticides. "In addition to the negative health effects of pesticides on workers there are large numbers of pregnant women and young children living adjacent to treated fields who may experience detrimental health effects as well."
This risk is exacerbated by the fact that farmland and residential land is not always clearly delineated in the state.
"This transition from farmland to residential neighborhoods is abrupt across California, and, of course, constantly changing as farmland is developed," study co-author Myles Cockburn of the University of Southern California told Beyond Pesticides.
The researchers found that some of the chemicals they studied increased tumor risk as much as 2.5 times. Overall, exposure to the pesticides chlorthalonil, bromacil, thiophanate-methyl, triforine, kresoxim-methyl, propiconazole, dimethoate and linuron all increased tumor risk.
This is far from the first study to show that pesticide exposure is a danger to pregnant mothers and children. In fact, researchers have been studying the link between pesticides and childhood cancer since the 1970s, according to NBC Los Angeles.
The report authors called for government action to better protect mothers and children.
"Policy interventions to reduce pesticide exposure in individuals residing near agricultural fields should be considered to protect the health of children," coauthor and UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health epidemiology professor Beate Ritz told NBC Los Angeles.
Contaminated Military Bases 'Are No Place' for Kids, Advocates Warn as Biden Ramps up Detention Capacity
By Kenny Stancil
In a move that was condemned by environmental justice advocates on Friday, President Joe Biden's administration earlier this week sent 500 unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors to Fort Bliss — a highly contaminated and potentially hazardous military base in El Paso, Texas — and is reportedly considering using additional toxic military sites as detention centers for migrant children in U.S. custody.
"We are extremely concerned to hear of plans to detain immigrant children in Fort Bliss. Military bases filled with contaminated sites are no place for the healthy development of any child," Melissa Legge, an attorney at Earthjustice, said in a statement.
"We recognize that the humanitarian situation at the border needs to be addressed in humanity, compassion, and expediency," Legge continued. "Part of that requires keeping children away from toxic military sites."
"While we are hopeful that the Biden administration will keep children safe, we remain vigilant and ready to continue protecting detained minors in toxic facilities," she added. "Immigrant children under the care of the federal government should not be in cages, let alone toxic sites in military bases."
The Biden administration announced last week that facilities at Fort Bliss "would serve as temporary housing for up to 5,000 unaccompanied minors," the El Paso Times reported Tuesday. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said "it will reserve the Fort Bliss accommodations for boys ages 13 to 17. Military personnel won't staff the site or provide care for the children, who are in the custody and care of HHS."
There are 17,641 unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors in U.S. custody as of Tuesday, according to ABC News. Over 5,600 children are being held in overcrowded facilities run by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which falls under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), while more than 12,000 are under the supervision of HHS.
Although DHS is supposed to transfer minors to the HHS's Office of Refugee Resettlement within 72 hours — after which children are housed in one of more than 200 HHS-approved shelters in 22 states until they can be placed with a family member or another suitable sponsor — thousands have been stuck for far longer than legally allowed in squalid conditions.
As the El Paso Times noted, HHS characterized Fort Bliss as "an 'emergency intake site' and a temporary measure to quickly remove the children from the custody of the Border Patrol."
Earthjustice argues that the Biden administration's plan to use military bases — many of which the group says "are known to be riddled with toxic hazards from past military operations, spills, storage of toxic chemicals, unexploded ordnances, and firing ranges" — to expand its capacity to temporarily detain unaccompanied children is no solution.
According to Earthjustice: "130 military bases and installations are considered priority Superfund sites by the Environmental Protection Agency. There are currently 651 Department of Defense and National Guard sites potentially contaminated by toxic chemicals known as PFAS, short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. PFAS don't easily break down, and they can persist in your body and in the environment for decades."
Several of the military sites being considered by the Biden administration "are contaminated with potentially hazardous pollutants and some are even located on or near Superfund sites," Earthjustice said.
The organization continued:
Superfund sites under consideration for housing children in immigration custody include the Homestead Detention Facility in Homestead, Florida, Moffett Field in Mountain View, California, and Joint Base San Antonio in Texas. Many of the sites remain inadequately remediated and still contaminated. Without proper environmental reviews, there is no way to guarantee these sites are safe for children, potentially exposing them to toxic chemicals that could have lifelong health impacts.
Fort Bliss is no exception. Earthjustice, along with partners including Alianza Nacional de Campesinas and the National Hispanic Medical Association, released hundreds of documents of searchable documents and an expert analysis of previous plans for construction of a temporary detention center for children and families at Fort Bliss. These records document several problems with the project, including that the Army did not adequately investigate to determine what types of waste had been disposed of at the site, that the methods used for testing the soil samples were inadequate or never completed, and that samples taken after the supposed clean-up still had concerning levels of pollution. Additionally, illegal dumping on the site may continue to this day. As a result, there is now even greater uncertainty about the environmental hazards at the site and a greater need for thorough testing, analysis, and cleanup.
"We are deeply concerned about the decision to open temporary detention facilities for minors at Fort Bliss and the potential health risks to the minors detained in tents there," said Dr. Elena Rios, president of the National Hispanic Medical Association, a client in Earthjustice's 2018 FOIA lawsuit regarding the base.
"Based on what we found in our Fort Bliss investigation in 2018," she added, "there are still present toxins from past landfills, which means children could be forcibly exposed to toxicity linked to cancer and development defects."
Despite the GOP's dehumanizing and misleading narrative that a "border crisis" is afoot, there has not been an uncharacteristic "surge" in migrants entering the U.S. at the southern border, but rather a predictable bump in border crossings that typically happens at this time of year, augmented by the arrival of people who would have come in 2020 but could not due to the clampdown on immigration during the Covid-19 pandemic, as The Washington Post reported last week.
An HHS statement on the transfer of migrant children to the military base in El Paso said that "the use of the Fort Bliss facility will have no impact on the Department of Defense's ability to conduct its primary mission or on military readiness."
The deference to militarism is telling. According to Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), it is impossible to understand the arrival of asylum-seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border without taking into account the role played by U.S. imperialism.
Earlier this week, as Common Dreams reported, the two progressive lawmakers made the case that the root causes of migration from Central America and Mexico to the U.S. can be found in decades of interventionist foreign policy, profit-maximizing trade and carceral policies, and the climate crisis — all driven by the pursuit of capitalist class interests.
Citing the U.S. government's "flagrant disregard for the health of those in custody," Earthjustice called for "the immediate halt of any plans to place children in such unsafe facilities, the securing of safe and suitable housing for children while they are required to remain in the care of the Department of Health and Human Services, and the development of solutions that do not involve placing children on or near toxic sites, military sites, or in detention-like settings."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
By Jonathan Levy
During a presidential election debate on Oct. 22, 2020, former President Donald Trump railed against Democratic proposals to retrofit homes. "They want to take buildings down because they want to make bigger windows into smaller windows," he said. "As far as they're concerned, if you had no window, it would be a lovely thing."
What a difference five months makes. While replacing your big windows with small ones is not on the Biden-Harris administration's agenda, increasing home energy efficiency is. Addressing these and other housing issues is critical for three of the new administration's immediate priorities: ending the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing climate change and tackling racial and economic inequality.
As an environmental health researcher, I have studied ways in which inadequate housing influences health and disproportionately affects low-income families and communities of color. In my view, retrofitting low-income housing in particular is a high-leverage way to tackle some of our nation's most pressing health, social and environmental challenges.
Housing Shapes Everything
The pandemic has spotlighted how directly housing affects people's health. It's intuitively clear that physical distancing is hard if your family lives in a few rooms. And studies have shown that crowded indoor environments, including houses and apartments, are high-risk settings for contracting COVID-19.
Housing also is a substantial contributor to climate change. About 20% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from residential energy use. Large homes generally use more energy, but lower-income homes are often less energy-efficient, which makes them costly to heat and cool.
One recent survey found that between spring 2019 and spring 2020, 25% of low-income American households were unable to pay an energy bill. Families may be forced to cut necessities like food or medicine to pay energy bills, or endure unhealthy temperatures. As changing climate lengthens summer, and there are more scorching hot days, those who lack air conditioning or can't afford it are in danger.
Racial inequities in housing aren't random. For generations, discriminatory policies kept Black and other minority households from purchasing homes in many neighborhoods. There are large racial gaps in both homeownership rates and the availability of high-quality housing across the country.
Maintenance is key to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Healthy Home Principles. HUD
Potential Policy Solutions
Now, for all of these reasons, housing is in the political spotlight. The Biden-Harris presidential platform included home energy efficiency retrofits. The new American Rescue Plan Act, which President Biden signed into law on March 11, includes housing provisions meant to forestall an eviction crisis and to reduce energy insecurity. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge has pledged to prioritize fair housing.
These efforts are all related. Energy-efficiency investments in low-income housing have broad ripple effects, including financial relief for residents, lower carbon emissions and healthier indoor environments.
But there are key questions. Will agencies address these issues as siloed challenges or in an integrated way? And will federal leaders and members of Congress see strategic investments in housing as a strategy that offers broad societal benefits?
The State of Low-Income Housing
Data from the American Housing Survey demonstrates some of the challenges low-income households face. Many of the more than 30 million Americans who live below the poverty line crowd into smaller, older homes. Often these dwellings have structural deficiencies like pest infestation, mold, peeling paint and exposed wiring.
Living in these environments creates health risks from exposure to lead paint, allergens and indoor air pollution. The economic challenges of the pandemic, with people spending much more time at home, have heightened these risks.
Poor conditions also plague many chronically underfunded public housing developments. Given how vulnerable many public housing residents are, I see upgrading these buildings as critical.
The Benefits of Energy Efficiency
Well-designed energy-efficiency measures provide economic, health and climate benefits in single-family and multifamily homes, including in low-income housing. My research demonstrates both the promise and potential pitfalls of various measures.
For example, better insulation lowers electricity and fuel consumption. In turn, this saves money, improves outdoor air quality and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
However, upgrades can be done well or badly. We found that weatherization alone, without other improvements, may actually increase indoor air pollution in low income, multifamily housing, especially in homes where people smoke or cook frequently with gas stoves. That's because steps like adding insulation and sealing cracks trap indoor air pollutants inside. Coupling weatherization with steps such as adding kitchen exhaust fans and high-efficiency particle filters in heating and air conditioning systems produces healthier results.
Welcome @SecFudge! https://t.co/K4Ang2domg— HUDgov (@HUDgov)1615414820.0
Are There Win-Win-Win Scenarios?
If better housing saves money, makes residents healthier and more comfortable, improves air quality, decreases greenhouse gas emissions and reduces racial disparities, why don't we have more of it?
One reason is that those who pay for improvements – landlords or government agencies – often aren't the ones who directly benefit from living in a less drafty home with cleaner air. Likewise, it's rare for health care providers to consider housing upgrades as an approved clinical intervention.
But that could change. A recent study showed that providing stable, affordable housing improved physical and mental health for both children and adults. Green building strategies have been shown to improve health, lessen asthma symptoms and reduce health care costs. Healthier kids miss less school and earn better grades.
Strategic federal investments could ultimately save taxpayers money and improve health. A 2020 study showed that federal rental assistance – which helps families afford better housing – led to reduced emergency department visits for asthmatic children, saving money for the Medicaid system. Subsidized energy efficiency upgrades also increase property values, which helps address long-standing racial disparities in wealth.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development typically gets little notice from the public, especially amid a global pandemic when Americans are focused on vaccinations and the economy. But Secretary Fudge has an opportunity to spotlight housing as a lever for improving health, the environment and economic and racial equity. All without shrinking anyone's windows.
Jonathan Levy is a professor and chair of the Department of Environmental Health, Boston University.
Disclosure statement: Jonathan Levy receives funding from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Barr Foundation, and Google.org.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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Are you worried about getting a serving of pesticides with your produce?
"It's a really great resource," Jane Houlihan, the national director of science and health for Healthy Babies Bright Futures, who was not involved with its compilation, told CNN. "By nature pesticides are toxic, and doing what you can to reduce exposures is a really good idea to protect your family's health."
The EWG's annual lists are based on testing data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA firsts washes, peels or scrubs the produce then tests it for pesticide residue. Almost 70 percent of the non-organic fresh produce sold in the U.S. contains pesticide residue, the EWG said in its report.
But still, some foods are more contaminated than others. Strawberries and spinach topped the list as repeat offenders. However, there were some notable new additions, EWG toxicologist Thomas Galligan told USA Today.
- Collard and mustard greens joined kale in the No. 3 slot. These vegetables were most commonly contaminated with DCPA, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says is a possible carcinogen.
- Bell and hot peppers were added to the list, in the No. 10 slot. The USDA found a total of 115 pesticides on different peppers.
In addition, the EWG drew attention to the prevalence of a fungicide called Imazalil on nearly 90 percent of citrus samples tested by the EWG in 2020 and more than 95 percent of tangerines tested by the USDA in 2019. Imazalil can alter hormone levels and is classified by the EPA as a likely human carcinogen. The fruits tested positive for the fungicide despite being peeled, CNN noted.
"I have said repeatedly that that fruits and vegetables with rinds that you don't eat are less problematic," Dr. Leonardo Trasande, chief of environmental pediatrics at NYU Langone, who was not involved with the study, told CNN. "I'm quite frankly surprised and concerned that you can see fungicides penetrate to that level."
Pesticides are especially dangerous for children, and have been linked to childhood cancers, cognitive impairment and behavioral problems, as the American Academy of Pediatrics noted in 2012. One pesticide found on Dirty Dozen items apples, peppers, oranges, grapes and cherries is chlorpyrifos, CNN noted. This pesticide, which the Trump administration refused to ban, has been found to harm the development of children's brains. The Biden administration is now reviewing this decision.
While Trasande and Houlihan praised the list as a resource for health-conscious parents, industry groups criticized it for frightening shoppers away from healthy food.
"Scaring Americans away from eating foods that are a safe and vital part of our diet is a disservice to public health," Chris Novak, the president and CEO of pesticide trade group CropLife America, said in a statement reported by CNN. "The benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh any possible risks from exposure to pesticide residues."
The EWG agrees that getting enough fruits and vegetables is essential.
"The most important thing is that everyone should be eating lots of fruits and vegetables," Galligan told USA Today. "We do recommend you try to reduce your pesticide exposure. Choose organic whenever possible."
However, he acknowledged that not everyone could access or afford organic produce. That's where the Clean Fifteen comes in. Almost 70 percent of the samples tested from items on this list turned up no pesticide residues at all, the EWG said, while only eight percent of samples turned up two or more pesticides.
The full 2021 lists are given below.
The Dirty Dozen:
- Kale, collard and mustard greens
- Bell and hot peppers
The Clean Fifteen:
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas (frozen)
- Honeydew melon
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While the hazards of fracking to human health are well-documented, first-of-its-kind research from Environmental Health News shows the actual levels of biomarkers for fracking chemicals in the bodies of children living near fracking wells far higher than in the general population.
The research fills a gap in the science between the health harms experienced by those living near fracking and the known harms caused by fracking chemicals: whether fracking chemicals were actually in people's bodies. They are. Of the southwestern Pennsylvania families who participated in the study, those who lived closer to fracking wells had higher levels of fracking chemicals or their biomarkers than those who lived far away.
One nine-year-old boy had biomarkers for toluene, which can damage the nervous system or kidneys, 91 times higher than the average American. Another had biomarkers for ethylbenzene and styrene, 55 times higher than the average American. Exposure to ethylbenzene and styrene is linked to skin, eye, and respiratory tract irritation, reproductive harm, endocrine disruption, and increased cancer risk. The research is part one of a multi-part series by Environmental Health News exploring the multifaceted "body burden" of fracking.
As reported by Environmental Health News:
In Texas, researchers found that babies born near frequent flaring—the burning off of excess natural gas from fracking wells—are 50 percent more likely to be premature. In Colorado, the state Department of Health found that people living near fracking sites face elevated risk of nosebleeds, headaches, breathing trouble, and dizziness. In Pennsylvania, researchers found that people living near fracking face increased rates of infant mortality, depression, and hospitalizations for skin and urinary issues. Studies of fracking communities throughout the country have found that living near fracking wells increases the risk of premature births, high-risk pregnancies, asthma, migraines, fatigue, nasal and sinus symptoms, skin disorders and heart failure; and laboratory studies have linked chemicals used in fracking fluid to endocrine disruption—which can cause hormone imbalance, reproductive harm, early puberty, brain and behavior problems, improper immune function, and cancer.
"We have enough evidence at this point that these health impacts should be of serious concern to policymakers interested in protecting public health," Irena Gorski Steiner, an environmental epidemiology doctoral candidate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Environmental Health News (EHN).
A man stands with his granddaughter in front of the Murphy Oil site located next door to his apartment in West Adams, Los Angles, California on July 16, 2014. Sarah Craig / Faces of Fracking
For a deeper dive:
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By Stephanie Eick
You may not realize it, but you likely encounter phthalates every day. These chemicals are found in many plastics, including food packaging, and they can migrate into food products during processing. They're in personal care products like shampoos, soaps and laundry detergents, and in the vinyl flooring in many homes.
They're also in the news again after an editorial by scientists in the American Journal of Public Health included an urgent call for better federal regulation of the chemicals.
In particular, scientists are urging state and federal agencies to eliminate phthalates (pronounced THAL-ates) from products used by pregnant women and children. Despite evidence of the harm these chemicals can cause, federal regulation in the United States has been minimal beyond children's toys. A recent move by the General Mills-owned food brand Annie's to eliminate phthalates from its macaroni and cheese suggests stricter rules are feasible.
So, what's the risk, and what can you do about it?
I'm an environmental epidemiologist who studies the impact of pregnant women's exposure to environmental chemicals. Here are answers to three important questions about phthalates.
Who's at Risk?
Ortho-phthalates, commonly referred to as phthalates, are synthetic chemicals that are used to manufacture plastic. They help make plastic more flexible and harder to break.
Despite their abundance in many products, phthalates can be harmful to pregnant women and their children. These chemicals can disrupt the endocrine system, the glands that release hormones as the body's chemical messengers. Studies suggest that can lead to pregnant women delivering their babies early. Other studies have found that children born to mothers exposed to high levels of phthalates can have a lower IQ and poorer social communication development, and that these children are also more likely to develop ADHD and behavior problems. Researchers have also found effects on the genital development of male infants born to mothers exposed to phthalates during pregnancy.
While phthalates can be found in nearly everyone, minority women have been found to be especially burdened. Studies show that many beauty products targeted at these communities contain high levels of chemicals.
Infants and young children may experience high phthalate levels because they often put plastic products in their mouths as they explore the world.
Phthalates can enter food at many places in the supply chain, including through plastic tubing for liquids during production, plastic storage containers and even food preparation gloves. Foods that are high in fat in particular can absorb phthalates through exposure during processing. Eating out doesn't avoid the risk. A study of U.S. children and adults showed that those who ate food outside of their homes had higher phthalate levels.
How Do I Know if a Product Has Phthalates?
Figuring out which products have high levels of phthalates isn't always easy. While phthalates are required to be listed on ingredients labels, they are sometimes included instead as part of the fragrance, which allows them to be excluded from the ingredients list.
Many companies have voluntarily removed phthalates, and many consumer products are now labeled "phthalate free." The Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep website also offers a way to search for details about chemicals in cleaning and personal care products.
How Do I Keep My Family Safe?
Phthalates are rapidly metabolized and generally removed from the body once exposure stops. Until there is better regulation, a few simple changes can make a big difference in promoting health and reducing phthalate levels in the home.
One easy change is to swap out all plastic food packaging containers with glass containers. If that's not possible, it's best to let food cool to room temperature before placing it in plastic food storage containers.
Don't microwave anything in plastic, because phthalates can migrate from food storage containers into food.
You can also reduce phthalate exposure by checking labels to avoid using products that include phthalates, by eating less processed food that might have absorbed phthalates during production, and by cooking more meals at home.
Stephanie Eick is a Postdoctoral Researcher in Reproductive Health, University of California, San Francisco.
Disclosure statement: Stephanie Eick does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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By C. Michael White
Members of Congress asked seven major baby food makers to hand over test results and other internal documents after a 2019 report found that, out of 168 baby food products, 95% contained at least one heavy metal. Foods with rice or root vegetables, like carrots and sweet potatoes, had some of the highest levels, but they weren't the only ones.
How concerned should parents be and what can they do to reduce their child's exposure?
As a professor and pharmacist, I have investigated health safety concerns for several years in drugs and dietary supplements, including contamination with heavy metals and the chemical NDMA, a likely carcinogen. Here are answers to four questions parents are asking about the risks in baby food.
How Do Heavy Metals Get Into Baby Food?
Heavy metals come from the natural erosion of the earth's crust, but humans have dramatically accelerated environmental exposure to heavy metals, as well.
As coal is burned, it releases heavy metals into the air. Lead was commonly found in gasoline, paint, pipes and pottery glazes for decades. A pesticide with both lead and arsenic was widely used on crops and in orchards until it was banned in 1988, and phosphate-containing fertilizers, including organic varieties, still contain small amounts of cadmium, arsenic, mercury and lead.
These heavy metals still contaminate soil, and irrigation can expose more soil to heavy metals in water.
When food is grown in contaminated soil and irrigated with water containing heavy metals, the food becomes contaminated. Additional heavy metals can be introduced during manufacturing processes.
The United States has made major strides to reduce the use of fossil fuels, filter pollutants and remove lead from many products such as gasoline and paint. This reduced exposure to lead in the air by 98% from 1980 to 2019. Processes can now also remove a proportion of the heavy metals from drinking water. However, the heavy metals that accumulated in the soil over the decades is an ongoing problem, especially in developing countries.
How Much Heavy Metal Is Too Much?
The World Health Organization and the Food and Drug Administration have defined tolerable daily intakes of heavy metals. However, it's important to recognize that for many heavy metals, including lead and arsenic, there is no daily intake that is completely devoid of long-term health risk.
For lead, the FDA considers 3 micrograms per day or more to be cause for concern in children, well below the level for adults (12.5 micrograms per day).
Young children's bodies are smaller than adults, and lead can't be stored as readily in the bone, so the same dose of heavy metals causes much greater blood concentrations in young children where it can do more damage. In addition, young brains are more rapidly developing and are therefore at greater risk of neurological damage.
These lead levels are about one-tenth of the dose needed to achieve a blood lead concentration associated with major neurological problems, including the development of behavioral issues like aggression and attention deficit disorder. That doesn't mean lower doses are safe, though. Recent research shows that lower blood lead levels still impact neurological function, just not as dramatically.
For other heavy metals, the daily intake considered tolerable is based on body weight: mercury is 4 micrograms per kilogram of body weight; arsenic is not currently defined but before 2011 it was 2.1 micrograms per kilogram of body weight.
Like with lead, there is a considerable safety margin between the tolerable dose and the dose that poses high risk of causing neurological harm, anemia, liver and kidney damage and an increased risk of cancer. But even smaller amounts still carry risks.
One example of the exposure infants can face is a brand of carrot baby food found to have 23.5 parts of lead per billion, equivalent to 0.67 micrograms of lead per ounce. Since the average 6-month-old eats 4 ounces of vegetables a day, that would be 2.7 micrograms of lead a day – almost the maximum tolerable daily dose.
What Can Parents Do to Reduce a Child's Exposure?
Since the amount of heavy metals varies so dramatically, food choices can make a difference. Here are a few ways to reduce a young child's exposure.
1) Minimize the use of rice-based products, including rice cereal, puffed rice and rice-based teething biscuits. Switching from rice-based products to those made with oats, corn, barley or quinoa could reduce the ingestion of arsenic by 84% and total heavy metal content by about 64%, according to the study of 168 baby food products by the group Healthy Babies Bright Futures.
Using frozen banana pieces or a clean washcloth instead of a rice cereal based teething biscuit was found to reduce the total heavy metal exposure by about 91%.
2) Switch from fruit juices to water. Fruit juice is not recommended for small children because it is laden with sugar, but it also is a source of heavy metals. Switching to water could reduce the intake of heavy metals by about 68%, according to the report.
3) Alternate between root vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potatoes, and other vegetables. The roots of plants are in closest contact with the soil and have higher concentrations of heavy metals than other vegetables. Switching from carrots or sweet potatoes to other vegetables could decrease the total heavy metal content on that day by about 73%. Root vegetables have vitamins and other nutrients, so you don't have to abandon them altogether, but use them sparingly.
Making your own baby food may not reduce your child's exposure to heavy metals. It depends on the heavy metal dosage in each of the ingredients that you are using. Organic may not automatically mean the heavy metal content is lower because soil could have been contaminated for generations before its conversion, and neighboring farm water runoff could contaminate common water sources.
Is Anyone Doing Anything About It?
The congressional report calls for the FDA to better define acceptable limits for heavy metals in baby food. It points out that the heavy metal levels found in some baby foods far exceed the maximum levels allowed in bottled water. It also recommends standards for testing in the industry, and suggests requiring baby food makers to report heavy metals amounts on their product labels so parents can make informed choices.
Baby food manufacturers are also discussing the issue. The Baby Food Council was created in 2019 to bring together major infant and toddler food companies and advocacy and research groups with the goal of reducing heavy metals in baby food products. They created a Baby Food Standard and Certification Program to work collaboratively on testing and certification of raw ingredients. Ultimately, baby food makers will need to consider changing farm sources of raw ingredients, using fewer seasonings and altering processing practices.
The U.S. has made important inroads in reducing heavy metals in air and water since the 1980s, dramatically lowering exposure. With additional focus, it can further reduce heavy metal exposure in baby food, too.
C. Michael White is a distinguished professor and head of the department of pharmacy practice at the University of Connecticut.
Disclosure statement: C. Michael White does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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A new report by a commission of health experts found 22,000 deaths in 2019 were caused by Trump's failed environmental policies alone.
The report was published this week by The Lancet, an esteemed medical journal whose "wade into the politics behind health policy is highly unusual," Bloomberg Green reported. But while the journal's editor Richard Horton has faced controversy before, the study was co-authored by 33 scientists, signaling "a changing time," Gretchen Goldman, a research director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Bloomberg Green.
"If you told me four years ago that scientific journals would be speaking out against Trump, I wouldn't have believed you," Goldman told Bloomberg Green. "But since then, there has been quite a shift, reflecting both the severity of what Trump did as well as the changing willingness of the scientific community to engage in policy conversations."
During his administration, Trump rolled back 84 environmental regulations, the report notes as of July 2020 – rollbacks that ultimately "hastened global warming, and despoiled national monuments and lands sacred to Native people," the scientists wrote.
Loosened restrictions on fine particulate matter air pollution was probably the main cause of the thousands of deaths, according to the report, harming communities in midwestern and southern states, where coal mining, oil drilling and natural gas extraction are prevalent. Many of these same communities have also overwhelmingly supported Trump.
Trump's exploitation of these communities gripped white, low-income and middle-income people's anger over "their deteriorating life prospects," banking on racism and xenophobia to gather support for his policies, the report said. But the "disturbing truth" is that many of Trump's policies were not radically new trends in the country's economic, health and social-political history, the report finds.
The Trump administration's policies rather accelerated a "decades-long trend of lagging life expectancy," particularly among Black and Indigenous people, impacted by lax restrictions on air pollution which are linked to health issues like asthma and pneumonia among children, heart disease and lung cancer, the scientists wrote.
In addition to outlining Trump's environmental policy, the report includes lengthy sections on the COVID-19 pandemic, immigration and racial disparities in health care. "I really think one of the accomplishments of the report is its historical truth-telling," said Dr. Mary T Bassett, a commission member and director of Harvard University's FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, according to The Guardian.
The scientists in The Lancet report also recommend various policies the Biden administration could consider. They call for anti-racist frameworks that directly compensate communities who have long been disregarded in the country, and they call for the new administration to introduce measures that address the social and environmental inequalities that "exacerbate" health inequities.
So how quickly can we expect a new tide of equitable environmental policy in a new administration?
Americans should brace themselves because it may take a while, Kevin Minoli, who served as a lawyer at the U.S Environmental Protection Agency in the Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump administrations, told The New York Times.
"It's very possible, more possible than not, that some of the Trump rules will still be in effect for a couple of years," he added.
With an entirely new administration, environmental policies could be designed to protect the communities it has long disadvantaged. Early decisions by the Biden administration to cancel the construction permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and plans to restore protections over national monuments, like Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, are promising steps forward.
But reversing much of what has been done over the past four years is a big job. Going forward, the U.S. must do so with "humility, and ambition," said John Kerry, the new White House climate envoy, according to The New York Times. "We really don't have a minute to waste."
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By Philip H. Howard and Mary Hendrickson
Agribusiness executives and government policymakers often praise the U.S. food system for producing abundant and affordable food. In fact, however, food costs are rising, and shoppers in many parts of the U.S. have limited access to fresh, healthy products.
This isn't just an academic argument. Even before the current pandemic, millions of people in the U.S. went hungry. In 2019 the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that over 35 million people were "food insecure," meaning they did not have reliable access to affordable, nutritious food. Now food banks are struggling to feed people who have lost jobs and income due to COVID-19.
As rural sociologists, we study changes in food systems and sustainability. We've closely followed corporate consolidation of food production, processing and distribution in the U.S. over the past 40 years. In our view, this process is making food less available or affordable for many Americans.
Fewer, Larger Companies
Consolidation has placed key decisions about our nation's food system in the hands of a few large companies, giving them outsized influence to lobby policymakers, direct food and industry research and influence media coverage. These corporations also have enormous power to make decisions about what food is produced how, where and by whom, and who gets to eat it. We've tracked this trend across the globe.
It began in the 1980s with mergers and acquisitions that left a few large firms dominating nearly every step of the food chain. Among the largest are retailer Walmart, food processor Nestlé and seed/chemical firm Bayer.
Between 1996 and 2013 Monsanto acquired more than 70 seed companies, before the firm was itself acquired by competing seed/chemical firm Bayer in 2018. Philip Howard, CC BY-ND
Some corporate leaders have abused their power – for example, by allying with their few competitors to fix prices. In 2020 Christopher Lischewski, the former president and CEO of Bumblebee Foods, was convicted of conspiracy to fix prices of canned tuna. He was sentenced to 40 months in prison and fined US$100,000.
In the same year, chicken processor Pilgrim's Pride pleaded guilty to price-fixing charges and was fined $110.5 million. Meatpacking company JBS settled a $24.5 million pork price-fixing lawsuit, and farmers won a class action settlement against peanut-shelling companies Olam and Birdsong.
Industry consolidation is hard to track. Many subsidiary firms often are controlled by one parent corporation and engage in "contract packing," in which a single processing plant produces identical foods that are then sold under dozens of different brands – including labels that compete directly against each other.
Recalls ordered in response to food-borne disease outbreaks have revealed the broad scope of contracting relationships. Shutdowns at meatpacking plants due to COVID-19 infections among workers have shown how much of the U.S. food supply flows through a small number of facilities.
With consolidation, large supermarket chains have closed many urban and rural stores. This process has left numerous communities with limited food selections and high prices – especially neighborhoods with many low-income, Black or Latino households.
As unemployment has risen during the pandemic, so has the number of hungry Americans. Feeding America, a nationwide network of food banks, estimates that up to 50 million people – including 17 million children – may currently be experiencing food insecurity. Nationwide, demand at food banks grew by over 48% during the first half of 2020.
Simultaneously, disruptions in food supply chains forced farmers to dump milk down the drain, leave produce rotting in fields and euthanize livestock that could not be processed at slaughterhouses. We estimate that between March and May of 2020, farmers disposed of somewhere between 300,000 and 800,000 hogs and 2 million chickens – more than 30,000 tons of meat.
What role does concentration play in this situation? Research shows that retail concentration correlates with higher prices for consumers. It also shows that when food systems have fewer production and processing sites, disruptions can have major impacts on supply.
Consolidation makes it easier for any industry to maintain high prices. With few players, companies simply match each other's price increases rather than competing with them. Concentration in the U.S. food system has raised the costs of everything from breakfast cereal and coffee to beer.
As the pandemic roiled the nation's food system through 2020, consumer food costs rose by 3.4%, compared to 0.4% in 2018 and 0.9% in 2019. We expect retail prices to remain high because they are "sticky," with a tendency to increase rapidly but to decline more slowly and only partially.
We also believe there could be further supply disruptions. A few months into the pandemic, meat shelves in some U.S. stores sat empty, while some of the nation's largest processors were exporting record amounts of meat to China. U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., cited this imbalance as evidence of the need to crack down on what they called "monopolistic practices" by Tyson Foods, Cargill, JBS and Smithfield, which dominate the U.S. meatpacking industry.
Tyson Foods responded that a large portion of its exports were "cuts of meat or portions of the animal that are not desired by" Americans. Store shelves are no longer empty for most cuts of meat, but processing plants remain overbooked, with many scheduling well into 2021.
Toward a More Equitable Food System
In our view, a resilient food system that feeds everyone can be achieved only through a more equitable distribution of power. This in turn will require action in areas ranging from contract law and antitrust policy to workers' rights and economic development. Farmers, workers, elected officials and communities will have to work together to fashion alternatives and change policies.
The goal should be to produce more locally sourced food with shorter and less-centralized supply chains. Detroit offers an example. Over the past 50 years, food producers there have established more than 1,900 urban farms and gardens. A planned community-owned food co-op will serve the city's North End, whose residents are predominantly low- and moderate-income and African American.
The federal government can help by adapting farm support programs to target farms and businesses that serve local and regional markets. State and federal incentives can build community- or cooperative-owned farms and processing and distribution businesses. Ventures like these could provide economic development opportunities while making the food system more resilient.
In our view, the best solutions will come from listening to and working with the people most affected: sustainable farmers, farm and food service workers, entrepreneurs and cooperators – and ultimately, the people whom they feed.
Philip H. Howard is an associate professor of community sustainability at Michigan State University.
Mary Hendrickson is an associate professor of rural sociology at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Disclosure statements: Philip H. Howard is a member of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems, and a member of the Rural Sociological Society. He has received funding from the National Science Foundation and the US Department of Agriculture. Mary Hendrickson is a member of the Rural Sociological Society, Agriculture Food and Human Values Society, and serves on the North Central Region SARE Administrative Council. She has received funding from USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA's Sustainable Agriculture and Research Program and various foundations.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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A Congressional report reveals high levels of toxic metals in common baby foods. Jose Luis Pelaez Inc. / DigitalVision / Getty Images
Toxic metals arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury were all present at levels beyond what the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers safe for other products. Yet infants are particularly susceptible to these toxins, which can impair their neurological development and have lifelong impacts on their ability to earn a living and avoid criminal behavior.
"No level of exposure to these metals has been shown to be safe in vulnerable infants," Linda McCauley, dean of the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University, told The New York Times.
The report was published Thursday by the House Oversight Committee's subcommittee on economic and consumer policy. It was prompted by a 2019 report from Healthy Babies Bright Futures, which found that heavy metals were present in 95 percent of commercially available baby foods.
"What they did was take food off store shelves and test it. We said we should go straight to the companies and ask for their materials," subcommittee Chair Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) told The Washington Post.
The subcommittee requested internal testing data from Nurture, Beech-Nut, Hain, Gerber, Campbell, Walmart and Sprout Foods. The first four companies agreed to the request, while Campbell, Walmart and Sprout did not.
Arsenic, lead, and cadmium were found in the products of all the responding companies, while mercury was found in products from Nurture, the only company that tested for it.
The impacted products were:
- Nurture (HappyBABY), which sold products with as much as 180 parts per billion (ppb) arsenic, 641 ppb lead, more than five ppb cadmium and as much as 10 ppb mercury.
- Hain (Earth's Best Organic), which sold products with as much as 129 ppb arsenic and used ingredients with as much as 309 ppb arsenic. It also used ingredients containing as much as 352 ppb lead and 260 ppb cadmium.
- Beech-Nut, which used ingredients that included as much as 913.4 ppb arsenic, 886.9 ppb lead and 344.55 ppb cadmium.
- Gerber, which used rice flour containing more than 90 ppb arsenic, ingredients with as much as 48 ppb lead and carrots with as much as 87 ppb cadmium.
The FDA has currently only set one legal limit for toxic metals in baby food, according to The New York Times. It requires that rice cereal not have more than 100 ppb arsenic. However, many of the ingredients tested far exceeded the legal limits set by the government for drinking water. The FDA limits for bottled water are 10 ppb inorganic arsenic, 5 ppb lead, and 5 ppb cadmium, while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has mandated there be no more than 2 ppb mercury in drinking water.
"The test results of baby foods and their ingredients eclipse those levels: including results up to 91 times the arsenic level, up to 177 times the lead level, up to 69 times the cadmium level, and up to 5 times the mercury level," the report authors wrote.
The report addressed corporate practices that might contribute to these high numbers. First, companies set high maximum levels for toxins. For example, Nurture set its internal standard for arsenic in rice cereal at 15 percent above the FDA standard. Second, companies still sell products that surpass their internal standards. Third, companies often test just the ingredients, not the final product. Finally, additives like minerals can increase the presence of toxic metals in baby foods.
The subcommittee expressed concerns about the products of the companies who had not submitted reports.
"For the companies that didn't participate, it raises the concern that they might possess information that indicates the toxic metals in their foods might be even higher than their competitors," Krishnamoorthi told The Washington Post.
The report authors made four recommendations:
- The FDA should require baby food makers to test their finished products, not just their ingredients.
- The FDA should require baby food makers to label their products with the amounts of toxic metals present.
- Baby food makers should phase out or find substitutes for ingredients that have high values of toxic metals, like rice.
- The FDA should set maximum thresholds for toxic metals in baby foods.
- Parents should avoid baby foods that contain high levels of toxic metals.
However, the representatives acknowledged that parents need support to make informed decisions.
"The FDA must set standards and regulate this industry much more closely, starting now. It's shocking that parents are basically being completely left in the lurch by their government," Krishnamoorthi told The Washington Post.
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