Some of you have probably read the recent reports released by The Environmental Law Foundation. The articles have been passed all around Facebook but as usual, I am behind on blogging about it. Apparently, the ELF tested some juices, fruits, baby food etc. and after testing some 148 products (mostly juices) they found that 85% contained LEAD!! They contained enough lead actually, in one serving, to warrant a warning label under the CA's Prop 65 (the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act). And the shocker to me wasn't that it was juice in general (juice which is fairly natural with few additives) but that the ORGANIC juices had lead in them just like the regular stuff!!
For more information here is the ELF site where they have links to the products tested and which tested high for lead.
My first thought was, oh crap! Then I thought . . . OK, we get all freaked out over these little things, lead is naturally occurring, I'm sure it gets into things. People get all worked up over minuscule amounts of lead or toxins when some of those things are almost unavoidable in nature. Not to mention that government wants to over regulate us (product manufacturers) to death. Which I found particularly ironic because here we are drinking lead with our juice, and yet the CPSIA seems more concerned that the fabric of our baby carriers may contain lead! (though thankfully they have backed off of many of their insane testing requirements) Crazy!! But I digress . . .
Doesn't the FDA regulate juices (they regulate everything else) and aren't they tested for stuff like this? Apparently they are, and the FDA's required min levels are supposedly higher than CA's Prop 65 which is .5 micrograms of lead per serving. Of course I don't really trust the government to tell me what is safe to use or not. I mean there is aluminum in antiperspirant (which many poeple are rubbing on their sensitive skin daily) and baking powder and cooking utensils etc. along with a host of other 'toxic' items, and don't even get me started on the crap in vaccines that we inject into our (and our children's) bodies . . . these are apparently OK too. I guess you just can't win no matter how you look at it (personal responsibility folks).
Anyway, this is just my cynical side coming out here.
But then I remembered . . . for children, any lead exposure is bad, and any lead ingestion is worse, no matter how much it is . . . it shouldn't be in there to begin with!! And even in nature (untainted by man) we wouldn't be getting lead in our fruits and juices. And any exposure to lead in nature under normal circumstances would be minuscule, we wouldn't be drinking it with our lunch (or shouldn't be).
So my conclusion is that it doesn't matter what the recommended max levels are from any 'governing' body (CA prop 65, or the FDA) and how they may differ. We, and especially our children, shouldn't be consuming lead in any amounts. Because "No safe threshold for lead exposure has been discovered—that is, there is no known amount of lead that is too small to cause the body harm." Wikipedia
So how would lead get into our fruits (and juices)?Here is what I got from the FDA website, and I am sure there are other explanations as well (all man made)
Juice can become contaminated with lead if lead-contaminated produce is used to make the juice. Lead contamination of produce can occur as a result of past use of lead in agricultural settings. For example, past use of lead arsenate as a pesticide in what were apple orchards is believed to have caused persistent lead contamination of the soil causing carrots presently grown on these sites to contain elevated lead levels. Produce could also become contaminated with airborne lead if it is handled at sites where vehicles or equipment are operated that use leaded fuel, if the equipment is operated in a manner that exposes the produce to excessive emissions from the equipment.So if lead comes from the fruit then what about fresh fruits? If the lead is coming from the fruit then yes, fresh fruit would contain it as well. But with fresh fruit you are getting fiber and other nutrients that actually help prevent the absorption of lead in your body. That means that eating fresh fruit with traces of lead wouldn't impact your body in the same way as drinking juices from concentrates of the same fruits. So basically I would say don't stop eating fruit!!
How does lead damage the body?Children consume juice in huge amounts and they are the ones most vulnerable. There is really no safe level of lead for kids, and it is also especially bad for pregnant women (and babies in utero too). Lead toxicity can cause problems ranging from irritability and aggressive behavior, developmental issues, headaches, tremors, insomnia, seizures, coma and even death. Children with lead poisoning are often diagnosed with autism. HERE is one such story (and you can google to find more info about it). Heavy metals in general (which include mercury and aluminum) can overcome children's bodies, especially considering they are more susceptible to them. I know several kids personally who have tested high for heavy metals, for no apparent reason (not obvious exposure). I have never tested my kids as I have never had a reason or felt that they exhibited symptoms that may be attributed to heavy metals in their body. But I know that heavy metal testing testing has proven to be a life saver and eye opener for many, so it is definitely something to be considered as part of troubleshooting potential health issues.
What what do we do now?For some of us, there is really very little to do. Check the lists of products that tested high for lead and those that didn't, and buy accordingly while we wait for more info. For others . . . DRINK MORE WATER!! If you ever had an excuse to stop giving your kids juice in favor of water this is probably the best one. I have never understood those kids walking around with sippy cups full of juice that they chug like it is going out of style. First of all I don't get why they have to have a drink in their hands at all times (though granted, my 12mo old does nurse whenever he wants, LOL), maybe it is a security thing like some kids have with their paci? Who knows. But avoiding juice is good and it isn't just because of the lead issue. Unlike fresh squeezed juice that you drink immediately, store bought juice has very little nutritional value . . . it is mostly just sugar. It has loads of calories. It is horrible for the teeth and if kids drink too much it can even interfere with development (they are filling up on juice and not getting the other stuff they need in their diet).
Don't get me wrong, I am not all anti juice. I'll give my kids juice occasionally, but literally, it is a special occasion thing (just like the occasional Gatorade or sprite when we are out). I like them to be able to have fun stuff occasionally but they know as a rule, we drink water (or raw milk or kefir). They get juice to drink maybe 1-2x a month and then I dilute it with water. We use juice far more often to flavor our kefir (which we drink more often) but again, we use so little that they are getting only 1-2oz per cup of kefir. I'll also let them have a few sips of juice to chase down any herbs or CLO I give them that taste icky (though most taste pretty good).
I definitely drink the most juice in the family. Ever since having kids I have craved juice, particularly grape juice. I think it is a nursing thing (since I am always nursing 2) and I think it is not just the liquid but the sugar that my body needs. I love my grape juice!! But I ALWAYS mix it 50/50 with water (and lots of ice so it is really cold . . . mmmmm). So if I chug a glass a day (usually the most I drink, many days I don't drink any) it is still only maybe 1/2 cup of juice. Basically between me and the kids the most juice we will go through is a bottle every other week (sometimes a bottle of juice lasts us a month!!).
Because we already consume very little juice I am not too worried, but you can bet I am going to be a bit more picky about the juice (and canned fruits) that we do buy. The foods we put into our body are vital to our overall health, and being a responsible parent means that I will never cease to research and learn and be informed to try to make the best choices possible for my family (while still letting them have some fun . . . I did make regular old chocolate chip cookies last night . . . does it make it any better that we dipped them in raw milk? LOL!!)
For more information check out these articles on lead in juices (along with the links included above)
NY Daily News
Inhabitots (has a list of the lead tainted products)