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Researchers at Dartmouth College tested 17 different brands of baby formula in a study that also tested cereal bars and energy shot drinks. Two of the formula brands, both organic, tested positive for high levels of arsenic.

baby formula bottle

Toxic baby formula

One of the tested formulas was dairy-based and the other was soy-based, but both had organic brown rice syrup listed as one of the main ingredients. Organic brown rice syrup is used as a substitute for high fructose corn syrup in organic foods. The levels of arsenic detected in the two organic formulas were so high, they were six times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency's standards for safe drinking water and 20 times higher than the other formulas made without organic brown rice syrup.

Arsenic dangers to babies

Arsenic, a contaminant commonly found in rice, is a human carcinogen known to cause cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. But high levels of any toxin can be worrisome for babies due to their small size and consumption per pound of body weight.

"In the absence of regulations for levels of arsenic in food, I would certainly advise parents who are concerned about their children's exposure to arsenic not to feed them formula where brown rice syrup is the main ingredient," says Brian Jackson, Ph.D., and member of Dartmouth's Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the Superfund Research Program that conducted the study (which was published in the Journal of Environmental Health Perspectives).

Arsenic and breastfeeding

All parents should be conscious of toxins and how they affect their children -- breastfed babies can be exposed to arsenic and other toxins without ever touching the affected baby formula. Breastfeeding (and pregnant) mothers should also check labels of the foods they ingest. While toxins don't pass through breast milk at the same elevated level as it does with the two affected formulas, toxins do pass through mother's milk.

More about toxins

Arsenic found in popular apple juice brands
Organic applesauce a must for baby -- 98 percent of apples contain pesticides
Concentrations of certain toxins in breast milk are low

Tags: toxins

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