Tuesday, April 7, 2009

In the News - what's in the bottle?

Baby formula may not be what you think it is. The EPA says it's safe but the Environmental Working Group advocacy organization is concerned.
A study by government researchers released Thursday tested 15 different brands of formula and found a chemical -- also found in rocket fuel -- contaminating every single one.
While the levels of the chemical, perchlorate, have been deemed safe by the Environmental Protection Agency, some worry public health is at risk.
Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tested the formula for the presence of perchlorate, a chemical used as the main ingredient in solid rocket fuel. It's a worry because perchlorate can interfere with the production of thyroid hormones by inhibiting the absorption of iodine. (Click here for the study or on the post title to read the full ABC news article)
Click here to see a table showing measured levels of perchlorate and iodine in various infant formulas,

In 2005 there was an alarming report implicating breastfeeding with this contaminant because there is a certain amount of this substance in the water supply and virtually all humans get some of it. This was somewhat misleading because people assumed that if breast milk was contaminated, formula would be better. At that time, they had not studied the issue with artificial baby milk. The recent discussion comes from studying formulas. This may result in increased levels of the substance because it is found both in the powdered formula, derived from cow's milk, and in the water used to reconstitute it. Bottled water is nothing more than tap water, meeting the same regulations and nothing more, so protection is not found by using this as a substitute.

In his response to questions about this report, Thomas Hale, Ph.D. and author of Medications and Mothers' Milk said:
"...So at this time all mothers should continue to breastfeed and not worry about the perchlorate issue. Have their pediatricians evaluate their infants at the routine visits for hypothyroidism (which every pediatrician does anyway), and not to worry about this contaminate.

In Summary:
1)--Perchlorate inhibits the uptake of iodine by the thyroid gland, and its secretion into human milk.
2)--The only known complication is hypothyroidism, which is easily treated with supplements of iodine, or in rare cases thyroxine.
3)--Be extremely cautious of supplementing yourself with extra iodine, you may actually do more harm to your infant by overdosing with iodine, than by underdosing with "perchlorate".

Lastly, this is the third time in the last several years that environmental contaminates have been found at low levels in breastmilk. This and a lot of other data is suggesting that we humans simply must become more proactive at voting for candidates that support environmental standards because our whole future depends on it."
Mother's milk is also rich with protective antibodies which have been shown to counter many potential ill effects. For instance, mothers sometimes worry about mercury content in fish they eat but it has been shown that breast milk's own protective factors render the milk safe from these contaminants and the benefits of mom eating seafood can be enjoyed safely while breastfeeding without putting her baby at risk.

In truth, if breast milk could be marketed as a drug, it would be in the multi-million dollar profit range for all the good it can do for the human body.

Rebecca D. Williams and Isadora Stehlin explained it well in the FDA Consumer
"Breast-fed babies are protected, in varying degrees, from a number of illnesses, including pneumonia, botulism, bronchitis, staphylococcal infections, influenza, ear infections, and German measles. Furthermore, mothers produce antibodies to whatever disease is present in their environment, making their milk custom-designed to fight the diseases their babies are exposed to as well."
This means that potential harmful effects in the environment, from viruses and bacteria to other hazards, may well be rendered harmless (or at least less harmful) to the breastfed infant because of changing antibodies. Mother's milk is not static, but ever changing to meet the unique needs of the baby in his/her own environment.

Pediatric Clinics of North America, Oct. 2001 states:
Unless the mother has high-level occupational exposures, extreme dietary exposures, or unusual residential exposures to hazardous or toxic chemicals, breastfeeding is overwhelmingly the preferred choice compared with formula-feeding. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that infants should be fed exclusively breast milk from birth through age 6 months and that breastfeeding should continue to age 2 years or beyond with the addition of nutritionally adequate and safe foods

• Benefits of breast milk are compelling
• Chemical levels in breast milk are generally low
• Risks of formula feeding are well documented
To ensure the best with breast milk, we should strive to reduce exposure to chemicals in workplace and at home. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) there are some steps you can take to reduce your baby's exposure to perchlorate:
1. If you are pregnant or nursing, make sure you get enough iodine in your diet (not getting enough can exacerbate the effects of perchlorate). See related article here and below under "Supplements."

2. Check to see if your tap water is contaminated with perchlorate.
3. If your water is contaminated, consider installing a water filter that uses reverse osmosis—these should remove perchlorate. If you switch to filtered water for drinking or mix baby formula with it you'll cut back on the amount of perchlorate your baby is exposed to. Reverse osmosis filters can be expensive, but they work. According to the EWG, most home water filters, including common pitcher filters and carbon filters, will not remove perchlorate.
4. Send a letter to your senators asking them to clean up and identify perchlorate sources. There's information and a letter that you can sign at the Organic Consumers Association.

It appears that supplementing with iodine may help prevent the adverse effects of this harmful chemical and help maintain adequate thyroid function, but prenatal vitamins have not been shown to be rich in this substance. Historically, we have been confident that we get enough iodine by using iodized salt and the American diet is rich in salt. Recently we have discouraged the overuse of salt and by improving health through this measure, we may also be reducing our iodine intake. Iodine is not all created equal and various sources supply varying amounts. When kelp is used as the source, levels vary greatly. For consistency it is recommended the iodine come from potassium iodide sources. Dr. Elizabeth Pearce of Boston University School of Medicine, BUSM recommends this. 150 to 200 mcg would be the recommended dosage to include in a vitamin.

Do not take supplements without discussing the need with your doctor. You may be interested to read your vitamin label for content. It is possible to overdose on iodine. For more information you might enjoy about.com's article. Best Blogger Tips

No comments:

Post a Comment

This blog only reviews comments before posting to avoid hijacking. We will respond to comments Mon-Thurs but we are closed Fri-Sun and legal holidays.