by Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff
Healthy Child Healthy World
Last week, the news broke that Consumer Reports had found traces of arsenic in apple juice. Naturally, I was alarmed. Although we don't keep juice in the house -- limiting the selections to filtered water and organic milk -- my kids do drink apple juice in restaurants and friend's houses.
Could I have unintentionally exposed them to poison?
This was a question running through many parents' minds last week. And although the amounts of arsenic discovered were low -- 10 parts per billion -- they were still higher than the levels deemed safe by the FDA for drinking water (there are no safety levels set for arsenic in juice). However, as of press time, none of the brands listed -- which included the organic Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value brand as well as Gerber Organic -- have issued recalls.
According to Consumer Reports, the story first made headlines when Dr. Oz found high levels of arsenic in apple juice and promoted the results on his show.
Consumer Reports followed up with a second study, releasing data last week that not only found levels exceeding 10 ppb in more than 30 brands of juice, but also that four of the juice samples registered lead levels higher than five ppb -- the FDA's limit for lead in water (again, there are no safety levels set for lead in juice).
Arsenic is a naturally occurring substance that is used as a pesticide -- primarily on cotton crops and in orchards -- as well as to preserve wood for building, according to Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
After reading the study, and follow up reports on the subject, I don't think parents should be too concerned about poisoning from apple juice. But I do think we should be aware that even these low levels of toxic substances can affect brain function. Arsenic can taint drinking water and has been found in other products such as baby food. Early childhood exposure to arsenic can lead to long-term risk.
Another takeaway for parents is Consumer Reports' findings that children drink too much fruit juice in general. This can lead to tooth decay and obesity, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends that children under six drink no more than six ounces -- about a juice box -- each day, and that children under six months should not drink fruit juice at all. Yet Consumer Reports found that one in four toddlers ages two and under, as well as 45 percent of children ages three to five, drink seven or more ounces of juice each day.
After the Consumer Reports study was released, the FDA indicated that it may reverse its position on the safety of arsenic in apple juice, according to Food Quality News, but at press time, no change has been announced.
If you're concerned about arsenic in your environment, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry provides an excellent list of resources, from how to order toxicology profiles on your region to a source to locate environmental health clinics.
Meanwhile, last week the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee voted to exempt arsenic, heavy metals and industrial mining operations from regulation under the Clean Air Act, according to a legislative database put together by Congressman Henry A. Waxman, Ranking Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
The irony is simply too sad to be funny.
Despite how this committee voted, we still have a chance of improving the Clean Air Act instead of standing by and watching it be dismantled. Sign the Moms Clean Air Force petition to encourage President Obama's support of the EPA's proposed Mercury and Air Toxics rule, which would reduce mercury, arsenic, acid gases, and other hazardous air pollution from America's oldest and most polluting coal-fired power plants.
Because what ends up in our air, ends up in our soil and -- now we know -- our children's juice, too.