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On the heels of the cadmium-laced Shrek glasses recall comes yet another piece of disconcerting news. This time, it's a study that finds dangerous levels of lead in a staggering number of the juices and snacks we serve our kids. One mommy blogger dubbed it "another day, another uh-oh." I'm having a harder time making light of this latest toxic bombshell.
The lead study is the work of The Environmental Law Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit. The group enlisted a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lab to screen 400 samples from 150 branded products marketed to children, including apple juice, grape juice, packaged pears and peaches (including baby food), and fruit cocktail mixes. The results: 125 out of 146 products tested, or 85 percent, contained alarming amounts of lead. (To read about the sources of the lead, click here.)
Perhaps even more upsetting to those of us trying to do our best by buying organic is the fact that the offenders aren't just the usual suspects. Brands like Earth's Best Organic, 365 Everyday Value Organic and Trader Joe's are in the lineup, right alongside Welch's, Minute Maid, Gerber, Del Monte and Dole. For a complete list of products found to be tainted -- and untainted -- by lead, see here (pdf).
According to the foundation, these products contain enough lead in a single serving to warrant a warning label under California's Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, or Proposition 65. (Unfortunately, California is the only state that has enacted this kind of law.) Lead has long been known to cause physical and developmental problems. Many scientists, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, concur that there is no "safe" level of lead exposure, especially when it comes to babies and young children, whose brains are still developing.
Prop. 65 requires that makers place "clear and reasonable warnings" on packaging. The Foundation has shared its findings with California law-enforcement officials, and with the affected manufacturers, retailers and distributors. If, at the end of 60 days, no law enforcement agency pursues prosecution, ELF will file a formal suit.
Amid all the bad news, there was a ray of hope. As part of its coverage of the foundation's findings, NPR had David Schardt, the science director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, review the foundation's testing. Schardt concluded, "If you look at the apple juice...there are some manufacturers who managed to avoid the lead entirely. And it would be interesting to find out how they're managing to do that."
The Foundation's lead study is just the latest piece of evidence that says we all need to support the Safe Chemicals Act of 2010, now before the House of Representatives. After 34 years of flawed regulations governing toxic chemicals, it's time for a change. The Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition, which has been working with Seventh Generation for an overhaul of the outdated laws, has sent out an online rallying cry:
"This is our best chance for creating a strong, effective law to protect our families from toxic chemicals for generations to come. Your representative needs to hear from you ASAP!"
If you want to be a part of the solution, go here.
Only radical legal reform -- along with continued monitoring by watchdog groups such as the Environmental Law Foundation -- will keep us and our children safe from known, and unknown, toxins.