Worrisome levels of potentially cancer-causing metal found in children’s diets

By Grace van Deelen

Young children are being exposed to a potentially cancer-causing heavy metal known as cadmium through many of the foods they eat, often at levels that exceed safety standards, according to a new study. 

Cadmium has been shown to contaminate water, air and crops, including a range of foods considered  healthy that are used in baby food. The study, which was published last week in the journal  Food and Chemical Toxicity, found that the cumulative average daily levels of cadmium ingested by children were higher than daily cadmium intake levels considered safe by the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).

For instance, children between 6 months and 24 months who consumed spinach and rice at least once a week ingested cadmium that exceeded the ATSDR guidelines by up to 200%, the study determined. The authors of the study warned that the findings are particularly concerning because the bodies of young children are still developing, and may be more susceptible to the effects of heavy metal exposure. 

The study comes after a 2021 US Congressional report showed dangerous levels of metals in infant food, prompting the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to launch a research and action plan to assess the risks of heavy metals in foods.