Friday, November 2, 2018

FDA Sets New Limits on Lead, Heavy Metals in Food

childhood lead poisoning food
New FDA regulations reduces the maximum daily intake of
lead from 6 to 3 micrograms in children, and limits
adults to 12.5 micrograms a day.

In September, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) set new regulations on lead intake through food. The agency reduced the maximum allowed daily intake of lead for children from 6 to 3 micrograms. The agency also set a limit for adults of 12.5 micrograms per day. These new regulations are a milestone in reducing childhood lead poisoning throughout the country.

Lead exposure is known to cause bone, blood, and cognitive disorders. In children, lead poisoning is particularly dangerous because these symptoms are usually irreversible. Lead poisoning is cumulative- meaning that even small amounts over a long period of time can cause health issues.

Although lead poisoning is typically associated with lead paint in old homes or lead in the water from decrepit pipes, the foods we eat can contain heavy metals. Lead occurs naturally in the soil and can be absorbed by plants grown for fruits or vegetables. Contaminated water systems or contaminated vessels such as pottery, cookware, silverware, and tableware can also leach lead into food products.

Even though the amount of lead found in food is relatively small compared to the amount of lead in lead-based paint, the FDA recognizes that constant exposure to heavy metals is still dangerous. According to the FDA "overall exposure adds up" because many of the foods we eat contain them in small amounts.

The previous daily limit for children was established in 1993, but since then new research about childhood lead exposure and its epidemiology has suggested the limit should be lowered. Researchers have brainstormed for years new tactics to combat childhood lead poisoning. One such tactic was enforcing lead intake regulations for adults in order to prevent exposure through breastfeeding and pregnancy. Another tactic was to enforce even stricter regulations in foods that are frequently consumed by children such as candy and juice. Both of these tactics have now been codified into regulation.

These new regulations can impact over one million children. The Environmental Defense Fund, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group, used data from a six-year FDA diet study to learn more about childhood lead exposure through food. They found that more than one million children between 2 and 6 years old consumed more than 6 micrograms of lead per day. These stricter regulations can help these children who are most at risk for lead poisoning. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), no amount of lead exposure is considered safe. However, the FDA recognizes that is impossible to completely remove lead from our environment. The next best step is setting stricter laws on food production to protect the public. These new regulations could save millions of lives and create a healthier world for everyone.

To learn more about the new regulations for lead in food, visit the FDA website. To learn more about lead certification and how to get involved in this interesting field, visit Zack Academy


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