As if we didn’t have enough to worry about already with this summer onslaught of recalls, a California non-profit environmental group, the Environmental Law Foundation (ELF), recently found levels of lead in children’s juice products and canned fruit that far exceeded those allowed by state law, and also violated federal law in some cases. The group purchased almost 150 varieties and brands of apple and grape juices (including boxed juices, a lunchbox fave) as well as cans of peaches, pears, and fruit cocktail, and then submitted samples for testing at an EPA-certified lab. ELF ultimately filed complaints with the California Attorney General’s office after receiving word that more than 85% of the products tested contained enough lead in a single serving to warrant a warning label under Prop. 65 (California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986). The products included in the tests ranged from local store-brands to ones with national distribution, including organic products. For the full list of products tested and their test results, check out the Environmental Law Foundation’s website.
Why is lead so worrisome? Children absorb lead at a higher rate than adults and are particularly sensitive to its effects on the brain and central nervous system, which can result in a variety of consequences, including decreased IQ. Lead also passes from mother to fetus or infant in pregnant or nursing women. The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that there is no safe level of lead exposure for kids. Unfortunately, lead exposures are cumulative, meaning they can add up over time with each additional exposure (so even if juice boxes contained a minute level of lead, if your children drank one daily over the course of several years, the level of lead in their bodies would increase with time).
So, what does this mean for you? Switching brands of juice according to ELF’s test results? Sending your child to school with water instead? Contacting these companies and demanding to know about the levels of lead in their products? Playing the waiting game until the FDA gets involved?