Yes, arsenic. It occurs naturally in our environment in both organic (typically non-toxic) and inorganic forms. It also can get into soil and groundwater from some agricultural and industrial activities. Inorganic arsenic is toxic and carcinogenic (cancer-causing). The biggest
health risks from exposure to inorganic arsenic occur during pregnancy, infancy and early childhood.
Here are some tips to help reduce your baby's arsenic exposure:
Breastfeed if possible. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends
breastfeeding as the sole source of nutrition for your baby for about 6 months. When you add solid foods to your baby's diet, continue breastfeeding for as long as you and your baby desire, for 2 years or beyond. t. Check with your child's doctor about
vitamin D and
iron supplements during the first year.
Vary the grains in your baby's diet. Rice cereal fortified with iron is a good source of nutrients. However, since rice tends to absorb more arsenic from groundwater than other crops, it shouldn't be the only cereal and does not need to be your baby's first one. Other options you can introduce as first foods besides rice cereal include oat, barley and multigrain cereals. (See "Heavy Metals in Baby Food.")
Do not use rice milk as a dairy substitute for cow's milk. In many cases, dairy-sensitive children can be given other dietary sources of calcium instead of a highly processed dairy substitute. Also, avoid brown rice syrup as a sweetener in processed foods for kids. The arsenic in rice is concentrated in rice syrup, which is sometimes used as a sweetener in
toddler snacks or puffs.
Limit fruit juices. Concerns have also been raised about arsenic in apple juice and other juice products. For years, the AAP has recommended limited intake of all sweet beverages, including
juice. Infants can be encouraged to eat whole fruits that are mashed or pureed. Toddlers and young children can be encouraged to eat whole fruits instead of juice.
If your family's drinking water comes from a private well, test your water in the spring or early summer to make sure arsenic levels do not exceed 10 parts per billion. That is the the federal standard for safe drinking water. (See "Well Water Safety & Testing: AAP Policy Explained.")
Talk with your pediatrician
If you're concerned about arsenic in your child's food, talk with your pediatrician. Your regional Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU) have staff who can also talk with parents about concerns over environmental toxins.