Surprise! There may be more to your child's juice box than its estimated 5 teaspoons of sugar. And I'm not talking about a submerged Dora the Explorer figurine, which researchers have just shown would make the drink that much sweeter.*
Of 146 different bottled juice, juice box and packaged fruit products tested (.pdf) recently at the request of a California environmental group, an overwhelming majority contained lead levels that exceed state and/or federal limits for young kids.
The tests were particularly troubling because the levels were calculated on a single serving, not the multiple juices and packaged fruits that an average five-year-old might consume in a given day. And there's no questioning the potency of the substance involved. Lead has long been known to cause physical and mental developmental problems.
Lead presents a special risk to children, who frequently place toys, fingers and other tainted objects in their mouths as part of normal development. From Medpedia:
No safe blood lead level in children has been determined. Lead affects children in different ways depending on how much lead a child swallows. A child who swallows large amounts of lead may develop anemia, kidney damage, colic (severe “stomach ache”), muscle weakness, and brain damage, which ultimately can kill the child. In some cases, the amount of lead in the child’s body can be lowered by giving the child certain drugs that help eliminate lead from the body. If a child swallows smaller amounts of lead, such as dust containing lead from paint, much less severe but still important effects on blood, development, and behavior may occur. In this case, recovery is likely once the child is removed from the source of lead exposure, but there is no guarantee that the child will completely avoid all long-term consequences of lead exposure. At still lower levels of exposure, lead can affect a child’s mental and physical growth.
Lead also poses an exaggerated threat to pregnant women. A study summarized online yesterday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives shows an association between maternal low-level lead exposure and fetal growth.
*Dora the Explorer figurines, incidentally, were recalled in 2007 for featuring surface paints with excessive levels of lead.
Photo by c r z