Lead found in 20 percent of baby food samples, report says

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Now there's evidence of another, more minor source of lead exposure in some food produced.

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.

"Lead can have a number of effects on children and it's especially harmful during critical windows of development", said Aparna Bole, a pediatrician at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland, who was not involved with the report.

The report however did not identify the samples by brands and said that the level of lead present in these food products are considered to be relatively low. However, a 2012 NIH study found evidence that levels less than 5 μg/dL "decreased academic achievement, IQ, and specific cognitive measures; increased incidence of attention-related behaviors and problem behaviors".

EDF analyzed more than 12,000 test results from the 2003-2013 FDA national composite food sample data (the Total Diet Study).

Fruit juices were most often found to contain lead (89 per cent of grape juice samples and 55 per cent in apple juice samples), sweet potatoes (86 per cent of samples) and teething biscuits (47 per cent).

But food is a source of lead exposure most of us probably aren't thinking about. Exposure at a young age can permanently affect a developing brain, causing lifelong behavioral problems and lower IQ.

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Adults are also affected by lead consumption - it's been linked to high blood pressure and kidney damage, according to the World Health Organization.

There's no safe level of lead, according to the EDF, and yet about 500,000 children have elevated blood lead levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "The agency is in the process of reevaluating the analytical methods it uses for determining when it should take action with respect to measured levels of lead in particular foods, including those consumed by infants and toddlers".

The FDA doesn't have any firm regulations on lead in other foods but limits lead in grape juices to 50 ppb.

"I don't know whether we can completely eliminate lead", Neltner said.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, a trade group representing food companies such as Gerber, said in a statement that lead and other minerals are found naturally in soil and water throughout the world.

Root vegetable-based foods fared the worst, with 65 percent testing positive overall.

Help minimize a child's lead exposure by having them eat a variety of fruits and vegetables.