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95% of U.S. baby foods contain toxic metals. Here's what parents should know.
"On the spectrum from worry to action, parents can choose to act," a new report states.
- A new investigation tested 168 baby food products for arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury, all of which are toxic metals that can damage brain development in infants.
- Nearly all of the foods tested contained at least one of the metals, and 1 in 4 contained all four metals.
- The authors of the report recommended five steps for finding alternative baby foods with less toxins.
Almost all of the baby food products tested in a new investigation contained traces of toxic heavy metals that can damage brain development in infants.
The investigation—which was commissioned by the nonprofit Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF)—tested 168 baby foods manufactured in the U.S. for four toxic heavy metals: arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury. These metals, even in trace amounts, can "alter the developing brain and erode a child's IQ," according to the report. Of the foods tested, the results showed:
- 95% contained lead
- 73% contained arsenic
- 75% contained cadmium
- 32% contained mercury
- 26% contained all four heavy metals
For at least a decade, health experts and advocacy groups have publicly raised concerns about the levels of toxic metals in baby food, and in 2017 the FDA established the Toxic Elements Working Group to reduce toxins in baby foods "to the greatest extent possible." Because of efforts like these, toxin levels in baby foods have dropped significantly in recent years. But it's not enough, according to the HBBF.
A call for "industry-wide change"
"Only a dramatically accelerated pace at FDA and the fruition of the new Baby Food Council's pursuit of industry-wide change will be enough to finally solve the problem," the report states.
"HBBF urges all baby food companies to establish a goal of no measurable amounts of cadmium, lead, mercury, and inorganic arsenic in baby and children's food, in recognition of the absence of a known safe level of exposure, and to achieve steady progress toward that goal."
But the baby food company Gerber noted that "many food safety and agricultural experts suggest that it is not feasible to achieve a 'zero' level of these elements -- even in homemade foods made from organic ingredients."
One problem is that these naturally occurring toxins will likely continue seeping into food, even if farmers and food manufacturers use the safest available practices. That's because it's a "legacy problem" caused largely by outdated pesticides that farmers had sprayed on the land for generations, as Charlotte Brody, a registered nurse and the national director of HBBF, told WebMD. Brody said one crop is particularly well suited for absorbing these dangerous toxins.
"What's driving the problem is rice," Brody said.
Health experts have known for years that rice contains high levels of arsenic, a toxin that's repeatedly been linked to decreases in IQ. In the new investigation, more than half of the rice cereals tested contained inorganic arsenic (the most toxic form of arsenic) at levels exceeding the FDA's proposed action level of 100 parts per billion (ppb). What's more, the report also shows that rice also contains relatively high levels of lead, cadmium and mercury.
Still, even though most health experts agree that no amount of these heavy metals is safe for infants, it's worth noting that toxin levels in baby foods have been falling for years. HBBF said the new findings shouldn't necessarily inspire worry, but rather informed action.
"Many factors can influence a child's IQ, from nutrition and genetics to environmental toxins," the report stated. "And many sources ratchet up children's exposures to heavy metals, from drinking water and old plastic toys to lead in dust from chipping paint and soil tracked into the house. Our findings raise concerns, but on the spectrum from worry to action, parents can choose to act. While no amount of heavy metals is considered safe, less is better."
So, what can parents do?
The report offered several guidelines for choosing safer baby foods:
- Avoid rice puffs and other snacks made with rice flour, which contain relatively high levels of arsenic, lead and cadmium. Consumer Reports recommends several baby foods typically low in metals: apples, applesauce (unsweetened), bananas, barley with diced vegetables, beans, cheese, grapes (cut lengthwise to avoid choking hazard), hard-boiled eggs, peaches, and yogurt.
- Avoid teething biscuits and rice rusks. Opt for other solutions for teething pain, like a frozen banana, a peeled and chilled cucumber, a clean, cold wet washcloth or spoon.
- Avoid infant rice cereal, which is the top source of arsenic in infant's diets. Non-rice and multi-grain varieties are usually safer options.
- Beware of apple, pear, grape and other fruit juices, which contain traces of lead and arsenic. These levels aren't as high as some other baby foods, but could be dangerous when babies drink fruit juice frequently.
- Carrots and sweet potatoes are healthy baby foods, but they contain higher levels of lead and cadmium compared to other fruits and vegetables. The HBBF choosing a variety of vegetables is the solution.
So much for rest in peace.
- Australian scientists found that bodies kept moving for 17 months after being pronounced dead.
- Researchers used photography capture technology in 30-minute intervals every day to capture the movement.
- This study could help better identify time of death.
We're learning more new things about death everyday. Much has been said and theorized about the great divide between life and the Great Beyond. While everyone and every culture has their own philosophies and unique ideas on the subject, we're beginning to learn a lot of new scientific facts about the deceased corporeal form.
An Australian scientist has found that human bodies move for more than a year after being pronounced dead. These findings could have implications for fields as diverse as pathology to criminology.
Dead bodies keep moving
Researcher Alyson Wilson studied and photographed the movements of corpses over a 17 month timeframe. She recently told Agence France Presse about the shocking details of her discovery.
Reportedly, she and her team focused a camera for 17 months at the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research (AFTER), taking images of a corpse every 30 minutes during the day. For the entire 17 month duration, the corpse continually moved.
"What we found was that the arms were significantly moving, so that arms that started off down beside the body ended up out to the side of the body," Wilson said.
The researchers mostly expected some kind of movement during the very early stages of decomposition, but Wilson further explained that their continual movement completely surprised the team:
"We think the movements relate to the process of decomposition, as the body mummifies and the ligaments dry out."
During one of the studies, arms that had been next to the body eventually ended up akimbo on their side.
The team's subject was one of the bodies stored at the "body farm," which sits on the outskirts of Sydney. (Wilson took a flight every month to check in on the cadaver.)Her findings were recently published in the journal, Forensic Science International: Synergy.
Implications of the study
The researchers believe that understanding these after death movements and decomposition rate could help better estimate the time of death. Police for example could benefit from this as they'd be able to give a timeframe to missing persons and link that up with an unidentified corpse. According to the team:
"Understanding decomposition rates for a human donor in the Australian environment is important for police, forensic anthropologists, and pathologists for the estimation of PMI to assist with the identification of unknown victims, as well as the investigation of criminal activity."
While scientists haven't found any evidence of necromancy. . . the discovery remains a curious new understanding about what happens with the body after we die.
Metal-like materials have been discovered in a very strange place.
- Bristle worms are odd-looking, spiky, segmented worms with super-strong jaws.
- Researchers have discovered that the jaws contain metal.
- It appears that biological processes could one day be used to manufacture metals.
The bristle worm, also known as polychaetes, has been around for an estimated 500 million years. Scientists believe that the super-resilient species has survived five mass extinctions, and there are some 10,000 species of them.
Be glad if you haven't encountered a bristle worm. Getting stung by one is an extremely itchy affair, as people who own saltwater aquariums can tell you after they've accidentally touched a bristle worm that hitchhiked into a tank aboard a live rock.
Bristle worms are typically one to six inches long when found in a tank, but capable of growing up to 24 inches long. All polychaetes have a segmented body, with each segment possessing a pair of legs, or parapodia, with tiny bristles. ("Polychaeate" is Greek for "much hair.") The parapodia and its bristles can shoot outward to snag prey, which is then transferred to a bristle worm's eversible mouth.
The jaws of one bristle worm — Platynereis dumerilii — are super-tough, virtually unbreakable. It turns out, according to a new study from researchers at the Technical University of Vienna, this strength is due to metal atoms.
Metals, not minerals
Fireworm, a type of bristle wormCredit: prilfish / Flickr
This is pretty unusual. The study's senior author Christian Hellmich explains: "The materials that vertebrates are made of are well researched. Bones, for example, are very hierarchically structured: There are organic and mineral parts, tiny structures are combined to form larger structures, which in turn form even larger structures."
The bristle worm jaw, by contrast, replaces the minerals from which other creatures' bones are built with atoms of magnesium and zinc arranged in a super-strong structure. It's this structure that is key. "On its own," he says, "the fact that there are metal atoms in the bristle worm jaw does not explain its excellent material properties."
Just deformable enough
Credit: by-studio / Adobe Stock
What makes conventional metal so strong is not just its atoms but the interactions between the atoms and the ways in which they slide against each other. The sliding allows for a small amount of elastoplastic deformation when pressure is applied, endowing metals with just enough malleability not to break, crack, or shatter.
Co-author Florian Raible of Max Perutz Labs surmises, "The construction principle that has made bristle worm jaws so successful apparently originated about 500 million years ago."
Raible explains, "The metal ions are incorporated directly into the protein chains and then ensure that different protein chains are held together." This leads to the creation of three-dimensional shapes the bristle worm can pack together into a structure that's just malleable enough to withstand a significant amount of force.
"It is precisely this combination," says the study's lead author Luis Zelaya-Lainez, "of high strength and deformability that is normally characteristic of metals.
So the bristle worm jaw is both metal-like and yet not. As Zelaya-Lainez puts it, "Here we are dealing with a completely different material, but interestingly, the metal atoms still provide strength and deformability there, just like in a piece of metal."
Observing the creation of a metal-like material from biological processes is a bit of a surprise and may suggest new approaches to materials development. "Biology could serve as inspiration here," says Hellmich, "for completely new kinds of materials. Perhaps it is even possible to produce high-performance materials in a biological way — much more efficiently and environmentally friendly than we manage today."
Dealing with rudeness can nudge you toward cognitive errors.
- Anchoring is a common bias that makes people fixate on one piece of data.
- A study showed that those who experienced rudeness were more likely to anchor themselves to bad data.
- In some simulations with medical students, this effect led to higher mortality rates.
Cognitive biases are funny little things. Everyone has them, nobody likes to admit it, and they can range from minor to severe depending on the situation. Biases can be influenced by factors as subtle as our mood or various personality traits.
A new study soon to be published in the Journal of Applied Psychology suggests that experiencing rudeness can be added to the list. More disturbingly, the study's findings suggest that it is a strong enough effect to impact how medical professionals diagnose patients.
Life hack: don't be rude to your doctor
The team of researchers behind the project tested to see if participants could be influenced by the common anchoring bias, defined by the researchers as "the tendency to rely too heavily or fixate on one piece of information when making judgments and decisions." Most people have experienced it. One of its more common forms involves being given a particular value, say in negotiations on price, which then becomes the center of reasoning even when reason would suggest that number should be ignored.
It can also pop up in medicine. As co-author Dr. Trevor Foulk explains, "If you go into the doctor and say 'I think I'm having a heart attack,' that can become an anchor and the doctor may get fixated on that diagnosis, even if you're just having indigestion. If doctors don't move off anchors enough, they'll start treating the wrong thing."
Lots of things can make somebody more or less likely to anchor themselves to an idea. The authors of the study, who have several papers on the effects of rudeness, decided to see if that could also cause people to stumble into cognitive errors. Past research suggested that exposure to rudeness can limit people's perspective — perhaps anchoring them.
In the first version of the study, medical students were given a hypothetical patient to treat and access to information on their condition alongside an (incorrect) suggestion on what the condition was. This served as the anchor. In some versions of the tests, the students overheard two doctors arguing rudely before diagnosing the patient. Later variations switched the diagnosis test for business negotiations or workplace tasks while maintaining the exposure to rudeness.
Across all iterations of the test, those exposed to rudeness were more likely to anchor themselves to the initial, incorrect suggestion despite the availability of evidence against it. This was less significant for study participants who scored higher on a test of how wide of a perspective they tended to have. The disposition of these participants, who answered in the affirmative to questions like, "Before criticizing somebody, I try to imagine how I would feel if I were in his/her place," was able to effectively negate the narrowing effects of rudeness.
What this means for you and your healthcare
The effects of anchoring when a medical diagnosis is on the line can be substantial. Dr. Foulk explains that, in some simulations, exposure to rudeness can raise the mortality rate as doctors fixate on the wrong problems.
The authors of the study suggest that managers take a keener interest in ensuring civility in workplaces and giving employees the tools they need to avoid judgment errors after dealing with rudeness. These steps could help prevent anchoring.
Also, you might consider being nicer to people.