Posted on February 01st, 2022
In the light of the news that a whopping 95% of store baby food contains arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury, it is no secret that feeding it to your child can later cause autism. However, another terrible effect of heavy metal exposure from baby food is a lower IQ.
Ever since the results of the congressional investigation from last year were made public, parents have been expressing their shock and outrage toward baby food companies, and for a good reason. It was found that the vast majority of infant and toddler food on the shelves of U.S. stores contains at least one of the four heavy metals of concern, which are cadmium, arsenic, lead, and mercury. One of the appalling discoveries concerns a very popular manufacturer that was allowing ingredients with over 900 ppb arsenic and food additives containing over 300 ppb arsenic, whereas the safe limit for this metal is 10 ppb.
Following ingestion, heavy metals act as neurotoxins in the bodies of infants and toddlers. Two primary mechanisms by which they can lead to the development of autism are neurotoxicity and oxidative stress. Children are considerably more vulnerable to experiencing the negative impact of neurotoxins on their health because of the following aspects:
However, in addition to contributing to the development of autism spectrum disorders, heavy metal exposure is also responsible for significantly lowering the IQ of children, a fact that is supported by reputable medical studies worldwide. Mercury and lead were found to be particularly harmful in this respect, but arsenic and cadmium are also contributors to this neurodevelopmental issue.
According to a study from the journal Environmental Research, a significant association was found between lead exposure and children's IQ. More specifically, when the concentration of lead in the blood increased from 10 to 20 micrograms/dl, the child would experience a decrease of 2.6 IQ points. The higher the blood lead concentration in childhood, the greater the loss of IQ points and occupational status in adulthood. Researchers concluded that considering this finding and the others discussed in the study, the link between lead exposure and a lower IQ in children should be considered causal.
Increases in peak blood lead concentrations, which occur at 18-30 months of age, are believed to result in lower IQ scores at 4-6 years of age, when IQ becomes stable and measurable, according to another study from Environmental Health Perspectives. To end the discussion about the impact of lead on IQ, let us take a look at a long-term study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association of over 500 children who developed in the era of leaded gasoline, which showed that their exposure to the neurotoxin might have led to a loss of intelligence and occupational standing by the time they reached age 38. The research found that for each 5-microgram increase in blood lead, a child lost roughly 1.5 IQ points.
As the other heavy metal often associated with a decrease in IQ, mercury is also a powerful neurotoxin, having similar health consequences as lead. "Some people are not going to be affected by mercury, and some people are, just based on their genetic disposition," said McCaffery, a scientist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School who studies the brain. A study from Environmental Health Perspectives estimates that between 316,588 and 637,233 children are born annually with umbilical cord blood mercury concentrations linked to IQ loss. This only worsens the problem, as children had already been exposed to the neurotoxin before ingesting contaminated baby food.
Perhaps the key finding of this study is the fact that the IQ losses correlated to mercury range from one-fifth of an IQ point to as much as 24 points. For instance, approximately 4% of infants, or roughly 180,000, are born every year with a blood mercury level between 7.13 and 15 micrograms per liter. That concentration, the researchers concluded, causes a loss of 1.6 IQ points. Nevertheless, there is good news too: "we've made great progress in reducing mercury emissions over the past decade, and this is likely to have reduced the number of affected children and to have reduced costs by a similar amount," Mount Sinai pediatrician and lead researcher Leonardo Trasande said.
Finally, the researchers in this study found that even a 1.6-point drop in IQ could cost a person $31,800 in lifetime earnings due to missed educational opportunities or jobs. Therefore, parents should take all the measures possible to shield their children from mercury exposure from store baby food, as well as from exposure to any heavy metal, particularly during infancy. Furthermore, mothers should ensure they are not exposed to mercury either during pregnancy, which they can achieve by:
A study from the journal Environmental Pollution recruited 530 children aged 9-11 years, including 266 living in a town close to industrialized areas and 264 from another town in the same city in South China. The concentrations of cadmium and arsenic in their blood were assessed, among other heavy metals, as well as the children's IQ. A considerable decrease in IQ scores was noted in children from the industrialized town, who had statistically higher concentrations of blood cadmium.
Furthermore, a study led by researchers at Columbia University found that schoolchildren from three school districts in Maine who had been exposed to drinking water containing arsenic experienced significant declines in IQ. Therefore, all four heavy metals of concern can contribute to a lower IQ in children, which is bound to affect their learning ability of new crucial skills, as well as their future in terms of education, social interaction, and job opportunities.