Does your baby's milk
contain rocket fuel?
If you haven't heard the news yet, government researchers tested 15 different brands of baby formula and found something really unusual: perchlorate (an ingredient used to make rocket fuel). Many CafeMom groups are buzzing about the news and members are understandably anxious. And get this—perchlorate has also been found in breast milk. Yikes! We obviously can't stop feeding our babies formula or breast milk, but there's no need to panic. There are some steps you can take to reduce your baby's exposure to this chemical.
What will happen if I feed my baby formula or breast milk containing rocket fuel?
The Environmental Protection Agency says there's no need to worry because there's not enough perchlorate in formula to do your baby any harm. But some health advocates disagree. They're worried because perchlorate is also found in other places—the drinking water in some states, for example. And if you use that water to mix your baby's formula, the amount of perchlorate your baby is getting from the formula and the water combined could exceed safe levels (perchlorate has been linked to thyroid problems). Although the study released last week did not examine the effects of the chemical on your baby's health (it merely showed that the chemical is in the formula), perchlorate has been linked to thyroid problems.
How did rocket fuel get in my baby's formula or my breast milk?
Unlike melamine, which was deliberately added to formula (likely to boost its protein content), perchlorate is not an "ingredient" that is added to formula, it's something that gets there via pollution (for example, the formula could be made from the milk of cows that drank polluted water). Perchlorate has also been found in breast milk (likely from moms drinking contaminated food or water). This contaminated water is usually found near defense industry sites, but perchlorate is also naturally occurring. And a January 2008 study by the FDA found that more than three-quarters of the almost 300 different types of foods tested were contaminated with perchlorate.
Can't I just switch to a brand of formula that doesn't contain perchlorate?
Unfortunately, the study did not name the 15 brands that contain perchlorate—though the researchers did say that cow-milk based formulas contained the highest amounts. If you're concerned, talk to your pediatrician about giving your baby another type of milk based formula such as soy.
I can't stop feeding our babies formula/breast milk—what can I do?
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) there are some steps you can take to reduce your baby's exposure to perchlorate:
1. If you are pregnant or nursing, make sure you get enough iodine in your diet (not getting enough can exacerbate the effects of perchlorate).
3. If your water is contaminated, consider installing a water filter that uses reverse osmosis—these should remove perchlorate. If you mix your baby formula with filtered water (or you breastfeed and switch to filtered water) you'll cut back on the amount of perchlorate your baby is exposed to. Reverse osmosis filters can be expensive, but they work. According to the EWG, most home water filters, including common pitcher filters and carbon filters, will not remove perchlorate.
4. Send a letter to your senators asking them to clean up and identify perchlorate sources. There's information and a letter that you can sign at the Organic Consumers Association.
Are you worried about rocket fuel in your baby's formula or your breast milk? What steps are you taking to reduce your baby's exposure?