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. The CDC scientists did not identify the formula brands they tested.
The CDC findings, published in the March 2009 edition of the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology, raise new concerns about perchlorate pollution, a legacy of Cold War rocket and missile tests. Studies have established that the chemical is a potent thyroid toxin that may interfere with fetal and infant brain development.
The new CDC study provides some of the strongest evidence yet that a legally enforceable safe drinking water level for perchlorate should be a priority for the Obama administration.
This is yet another nail in the coffin for infant formulas, if you ask me. 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.
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 milk or water used to prepare it.
What is Perchlorate?
Perchlorates are salts derived from perchloric acid, which are used in the defense- and pyrotechnics industries. The military has used perchlorate since the early 1900’s, and it’s a component of solid rocket fuel, among other things.
Unfortunately, most perchlorate salts are water soluble, and we’re now experiencing widespread land and water contamination in many areas of the world.
Traces of perchlorate have been found in cow’s milk, water supplies, lettuce and other vegetables grown in certain high-contamination areas (such as the fields around the Colorado River), and now infant formulas have been exposed as another common source of this toxic exposure.
Which Formulas are the Worst?
Although the study does not identify the brands tested by name, the milk-based brands were found to be far more contaminated than the others, although ALL commercially available formulas were contaminated to some degree.
The test results for the types of formulas tested were as follows:
Cow’s milk-based (with lactose) = 1.72 mug/l perchlorate
Lactose-free formula = 0.27 mug/l
Soy-based formula = 0.21 mug/l
Elemental (typically consisting of synthetic amino acids) = 0.18 mug/l
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.”
The Dangers of Perchlorate
This is a serious concern because perchlorate is known to disrupt thyroid function and hormone production by inhibiting your thyroid gland's iodine uptake. This has actually been known since the 1950’s, when it was used to treat overactive thyroids.
In addition, at high doses perchlorates may affect fetal development, so the mother’s toxic load can also place the child at risk.
According to the CDC, perchlorate affects your health in the following ways:
Blocks your thyroid gland from taking up iodine. (Your thyroid gland needs iodine to make the thyroid hormones that regulate how your body uses energy.)
Iodine deficiency or conditions that prevent its use in making thyroid hormone lead to decreased amounts of thyroid hormone circulating in your blood, which can manifest as symptoms of hypothyroidism.
The researchers did note that supplemental iodine can counteract some of the toxic effects of perchlorate, and that the FDA requires infant formula to be supplemented with iodine.
However, the required concentration ranges from as little as 5 to as much as 75 mcg per 100 kcal of energy. Brands that contain only the minimum requirements leave infants iodine deficient and therefore more susceptible to thyroid damage.
That said, the researchers still stressed that even the formulas containing adequate amounts of iodine were not guaranteed to prevent “perchlorate-induced thyroid dysfunction.”
Avoid Infant Formula for Healthier Baby
Unfortunately, infant formulas are still a popular choice here in the United States, including soy formula, which may be one of the absolute worst things you can feed your baby. I strongly advise parents to avoid soy formulas at all cost as it can potentially kill your baby.
Let me make it PERFECTLY clear. There is overwhelming evidence that soy formula will seriously harm your baby. 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. It is virtually 100 percent guaranteed to harm your child.
The evidence is beyond staggering. One of my next major upcoming projects will be to have a massive campaign around this These companies are destroying the health of future generations with their products. I am putting major energy into offering a healthy alternative.
The Dangers of Soy Formula
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 plant lifts up manganese in the soil and concentrates 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 the estrogens 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.
What Else You Need to Know About Infant Formulas
Most all 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 very little difference between giving your infant a can of soda, beer, or a bottle of most all conventional infant formulas.
Of course I advocate breastfeeding if at all possible as it is by far the healthiest option. That breast milk is the best source of nutrition for newborns is one of the most clear-cut, non-debatable topics in health care. The benefits to the baby and the new mom are just enormous.
If for some reason you're unable to breastfeed, please read the Healthy Alternative to Conventional Infant Formula for advice on how to make homemade baby formula.
Gerber, which in many people's minds still go hand in hand with the image of "healthy baby", never was, and never will be, a real contender against breast milk or homemade baby food.
Why Breastfeeding is Best
While any amount of breastfeeding is better than none at all, it is clearly to your advantage, and best for your baby’s health, to breastfeed exclusively -- meaning no other food or water is supplemented -- for the first 6 months. Then, at the age of 6 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?
Here are just some of the benefits that it provides to your child:
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
Of course, 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.
Breastfeeding Myths Debunked
There are certain medical conditions that can prevent a woman from breastfeeding, however the majority of women are able to breastfeed successfully. Often, those who choose not to are doing so because of misinformation, so I want to clear up some of the myths right now.
MYTH 1: “I don’t have enough milk” -- ALL women have enough milk to breastfeed. The more the baby nurses, the more milk you will produce.
MYTH 2: Infant formula is more nutritious -- This is absolutely not true, and contamination issues are just the top if 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.
MYTH 3: Breastfeeding is painful -- Breastfeeding can be painful for some women, but this is almost always the result of incorrect positioning. Trouble with positioning can be resolved by getting help from a lactation consultant.
Additional Help and Resources if You Can’t Breastfeed
Le Leche League is another terrific resource. I was fortunate to be in a rotation group for my last two years of medical school with Tim Cahill, whose mother is Mary, and is one of the founders of Le Leche League. Tim was a super terrific guy, and a great testimony to what breast feeding can do.