United States Government scientists say all 15 brands of powdered infant formula they tested contained some level of perchlorate, a chemical used in rocket fuel since World War II.
The sample with the highest concentration, a cow’s milk-based formula, contained 5.05 mcg/L, according to Joshua Schier, M.D., of the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health in Atlanta.
Dr. Schier and colleagues reported their findings online in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology.
The concentrations are well below the Environmental Protection Agency’s reference dose of 15 mcg/L of perchlorate in drinking water. That’s an estimate of daily oral exposure unlikely to be harmful over the course of a lifetime, even among the sensitive populations such as fetuses and newborns.
However, environmentalists and others have questioned the value of using the EPA’s calculations alone. One reason is that powdered formula containing perchlorate would be mixed with water, which might contain even more of the chemical.
In a series of 48 hypothetical models of daily exposure to perchlorate among infants, Dr. Schier and colleagues found that 54% would exceed the reference dose, assuming that water containing as little as 4 mcg/L of perchlorate was used to mix the formula.
Perchlorate, which can occur naturally but has been manufactured extensively for use in rocket fuel, fireworks, and road flares, was first detected in wells located on California Superfund sites in the mid-1980s.
Since then, it has been detected in 5.4% of U.S. water utilities in 26 states and two territories, according to the researchers. Traces are also found in our food supply.
“The perchlorate inhibits the transport of iodine into the thyroid, and thus may disrupt the normal function of the thyroid, to regulate body metabolism and stunt fetal and infant brain development,” states Dr. Robert O. Young, Director of Research at the pH Miracle Living Center, in Valley Center, California.
In January, the EPA issued a health advisory on perchlorate, asking for a new review of the issue by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences.
In 2005 the council issued a report on the health implications of perchlorate ingestion that resulted in the reference dose adopted by the EPA.
The FDA has not made specific recommendations about modifying diet to avoid exposure to perchlorate. But the agency does recommend that people in areas where drinking water contains more than 15 mcg/L mix powdered infant formula with bottled water, or water that has been filtered to remove the contaminant.
“The best way to remove perchlorate from the drinking water is through a micro filter of .01 microns, then through a carbon filter, then through a coral calcium filter, and finally through electrical ionization to alkalize and re-energize the water.”
“As it pertains to the 15 brands of powdered baby formula, the most toxic ingredient is the acid sugar found in all formulas,” states Dr. Young.
We examined three samples each from 15 brands of powdered formula, including those based on cow’s milk (with and without the acid lactose), soy products, and synthetic amino acids (known as elemental formula).
Some level of perchlorate was found in each sample.
The following concentrations were detected:
* Cow milk-based with lactose: 1.72 mcg/L (range 0.68 to 5.05)
* Soy-based: 0.21 mcg/L (range 0.10 to 0.44)
* Cow milk-based without lactose: 0.27 mcg/L (range 0.03 to 0.93)
* Elemental: 0.18 mcg/L (range 0.08 to 0.4)
Taken together, the samples from cow milk-based formula with the toxic acid lactose had a significantly higher concentration of perchlorate than the rest (P<0.05).
And two “widely distributed” brands had significantly higher levels than the rest of the cow milk-based formula with the toxic acid lactose (P<0.0001).
A report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service showed that these two brands accounted for 87% of the powdered formula market.
“Make sure you read the labels of any baby formulas or baby food. If they contain any form of acid sugar, such as lactose or corn syrup or rice syrup they are toxic to your baby and may cause tissue acidosis leading to sickness and dis-ease,” states Dr. Young.
When the researchers modeled 48 possible exposure scenarios, they found that one- and 6-month-old infants in the 10th, 50th, or 90th percentiles of weight (six scenarios) could be at risk for exceeding the reference dose. That assumed the formula was based on cow’s milk with lactose and was mixed with perchlorate-free water.
Another 20 scenarios would exceed the mark if the powdered formula were mixed with water containing 4 mcg/L of perchlorate or more.
“My best advise is to make sure your drinking water is free from chemicals through filtration and ionization. And when feeding yourself or your baby stay away from acidic foods that are laced with one of the most toxic chemicals – sugar in all its forms,” states Dr. Young.
The Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology
Schier J, et al “Perchlorate exposure from infant formula and comparisons with the perchlorate reference dose” J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 2009; DOI: 10.1038/jes.2009.1
The pH Miracle by Dr. Robert and Shelley Young