A recent study by Healthy Baby Bright Futures finds that infant baby cereal contains six times as much arsenic as other cereals.
While arsenic is strictly regulated in drinking water, it is legal in any amount in infant rice cereal. It is a potent human carcinogen and a neurotoxin shown to permanently reduce children’s IQ.
Arsenic is also found in higher concentrations in brown rice and rice milk, leaving us to wonder whether there is any risk to breastfeeding babies if the mother consumes large amounts of brown rice or rice milk.
“Infants are especially vulnerable because their bodies are so small, and on a per-pound basis, they’re getting much higher exposure than anyone else in the population,” HBBF research director Jane Houlihan told the New York Times. “They’re also vulnerable because it is a neurotoxic compound, and their brain is developing.”
The study’s sponsors, an alliance of scientists, nonprofit groups and private donors that aims to reduce children’s exposures to chemicals that may harm developing brains, recommends choosing these cereals instead of rice cereal: oatmeal, mixed grain, quinoa, barley, buckwheat, and wheat.
“As a precaution, I recommend breastfeeding mothers limit consumption of rice products,”- Stephanie Canale, MD, founder of Lactation Lab and a practicing family physician at UCLA.
Consumer Reports says rice eaters seeking to minimize their exposure to arsenic should choose either white basmati or sushi rice from California, India or Pakistan, or brown basmati from the same origins. Further tips for reducing consumption of arsenic through rice can be found here.
As an added layer of security, Lactation Lab’s Premium Test Kit detects and measures levels of arsenic and other toxins in a mother’s breast milk, all from the comfort of her own home.
“Our tests revealed elevated levels of arsenic in one breastfeeding mother’s milk, which we believe originated from regular rice consumption at dinnertime,” said Dr. Canale. “With this information, she was able to adjust her diet to limit the risk of arsenic in her milk.”