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Which Infant Formulas Contain Hidden Toxic Chemicals?

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Posted By Dr. Mercola | August 05 2010

Although artificial human milk is regulated by the FDA, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that a thyroid-affecting chemical used in rocket fuel contaminated 15 brands of powdered infant formula -- including two that accounted for 87 percent of market share in 2000. The top offenders included Similac and Enfamil.

baby drinking artificial human milkThe International Formula Council blamed the perchlorate on the water used to make the formula rather than the powder. However, pre-mixed liquid formulas come with their own potential toxins, such as the chemical BPA.

And in China, 76 tons of melamine-tainted milk products were recently seized, just two years after melamine-adulterated formula killed six infants and hospitalized thousands more.

Mother Jones reports:

"For all these reasons the American Academy of Pediatrics remains less than sanguine about infant formula, recommending exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continued nursing 'until at least the baby's first birthday.' Indeed, they credit mother's milk with everything from breast cancer risk reduction to obesity prevention."

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In 2009, a government study found that 15 brands of powdered infant formula were contaminated with perchlorate, a toxic compound in rocket fuel.

The two most contaminated brands, made from cow’s milk, accounted for 87 percent of the U.S. powdered formula market in 2000, the scientists said, and although they did not identify the formula brands they tested, Mother Jones reports that they were referring to Similac and Enfamil -- two infant formula brands that exist in just about every supermarket in the United States.

Most people are exposed to perchlorate through their diet in the form of contaminated water and/or foods. But infant exposure may be far greater than that of adults, especially if they are fed infant formula, as the toxin may be present in both the formula and/or the water used to prepare it.

Can You Really Trust Infant Formula?

Your child is perhaps never more vulnerable than in the first few months of life, when their fragile body is still rapidly developing.

Infants experience greater exposure to chemicals pound-for-pound than adults, and have an immature and porous blood-brain barrier, which allows greater chemical exposures to reach their developing brain.

Children also have lower levels of some chemical-binding proteins, which allows more of a chemical to reach their organs, while systems that detoxify and excrete chemicals in adults are not fully developed.

So it goes without saying that feeding babies the purest, gentlest food possible is extremely important. Infant formula is a poor nutritional substitute for breast milk in general, but when you factor in toxic contaminations such as perchlorate, it really makes me question their use entirely.

Perchlorates, Melamine and Inferior Nutrition

Perchlorates are salts derived from perchloric acid, which are used in the defense- and pyrotechnics industries. Unfortunately, most perchlorate salts are water soluble, and we’re now experiencing widespread land and water contamination in many areas of the world.

This is a serious concern because perchlorate is known to disrupt thyroid function and hormone production by inhibiting your thyroid gland's iodine uptake.

In addition, at high doses perchlorates may affect fetal development, so the mother’s toxic load can also place the child at risk. This toxin has been found in most U.S. powdered infant formula, and according to the Environmental Working Group:

The EWG states:

“The CDC study said that reconstituting cow’s milk/lactose formula with water contaminated with perchlorate at just 4 parts per billion (ppb) would cause 54 percent of the infants consuming the mix to exceed the so-called “safe” dose set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Many scientists contend that the EPA “safe” level is too high to protect public health.”

And that is only one chemical that’s been detected in infant formula. Melamine, a compound composed of nitrogen, carbon and hydrogen that’s been linked to kidney failure, among other serious problems (including death), has been found to contaminate infant formula in China for some years now. But this toxin has also been detected in U.S.-made infant formula.

Melamine was found in concentrations of 137 and 140 parts per billion in Nestle Nutrition's Good Start Supreme Infant Formula with Iron, but the FDA said that concentrations less than 1,000 parts per billion do not raise safety concerns, although earlier they had argued that no level of melamine was safe.

Now, even if you were able to prove that infant formula was 100 percent safe and free from these types of unintended contaminants (which would not happen), I would still not advise feeding it to your child …

Would You Give Your Baby a Can of Soda?

Many infant formulas have as much or more high fructose corn syrup than a can of soda. Metabolically this is very similar to alcohol on a chronic basis, so there appears to be a frightening similarity between giving your infant a can of soda or beer, or a bottle of most conventional infant formulas.

I’ve written numerous articles about the dangers of consuming fructose, including its ability to disturb your metabolism, elevate blood pressure and triglycerides, cause weight gain, heart disease and liver damage, and even deplete your body of vitamins and minerals.

There is no way that a baby should be consuming any corn syrup whatsoever, and the fact that infant formulas are able to be marketed as nutritious for babies when they’re loaded with corn syrup is incredibly deceptive. If you currently have infant formula in your home, check the label for corn syrup or corn syrup solids, and throw the can away if you find it.

Soy Formula is Even More Dangerous

I rarely talk about absolutes but this is one where I will say: NEVER give your child soy formula. I guess the only exception would be if there was a catastrophe and that was the only food source that would keep your baby alive.  

The high concentrations of manganese found in soybean-based baby formula can lead to brain damage in infants and altered behaviors in adolescents.

Researchers have found that soybean plants lift up manganese in the soil and concentrate it, so that its use in soy-based infant formula can result in as many as 200 times the level found in natural breast milk. Experts believe that such high concentrations could pose a threat to the immature metabolic systems of babies up to 6 months of age.

The other significant issue is the estrogen in soy. A soy-fed baby receives the equivalent of five birth control pills' worth of estrogen every day! These babies' isoflavone levels were found to be from 13,000 to 22,000 times higher than in non-soy fed infants.

Breast is Best

One of the best gifts you can give your child is to start out their life with a sound nutritional foundation, and the best way to do this is by breastfeeding.

While any amount of breastfeeding is better than none at all, it is clearly to your advantage, and best for your baby’s health, tobreastfeed exclusively -- meaning no other food or water is supplemented -- for at least the first 6 months. Then, at the age of 6 or 9 months, you can begin to supplement with solid foods (while still continuing to breastfeed as well).

What exactly does your baby stand to gain by being breastfed?

  • Lower risk of respiratory tract and middle ear infections
  • Lower risk of eczema
  • Lower risk of obesity
  • Added protection against heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and allergies
  • Improved brain function and immune system function

There are benefits to mom, too. The main ones are a reduced risk of chronic diseases like cancer, a faster return to your pre-pregnancy weight, and increased bonding between you and your baby.

So please don’t be swayed by myths like infant formula is more nutritious than breast milk. This is absolutely not true, and contamination issues are just the tip of the iceberg.

Statistics show a clear correlation between feeding infants artificial formula and increased infant mortality within the first year. It’s important to realize that there are at least 400 nutrients in breast milk that are NOT found in formula. Of course, the healthier that a new mom eats, the healthier her breast milk will be, too.

There are certain medical conditions that can prevent a woman from breastfeeding, however the majority of women are able to breastfeed successfully. If you need help, contact a lactation consultant in your area for tips and support. You can also visit La Leche League, which is a phenomenal resource for breastfeeding moms.

A Healthier Infant Formula …

If for some reason you’re not able to breastfeed, or you have adopted a baby, your next best option is to make a healthy infant formula using raw milk. You can find homemade formula recipes here.

We do have as one of our projects to produce the finest infant formula on the market. Unfortunately, there is a long development process and we are still about two years away from offering it

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