Arsenic in Well Water Can Raise Level in Baby Formula: Study

February 23, 2015   ·   0 Comments

Arsenic in Well Water Can Raise Level in Formula

Researchers found overall amounts low, but recommend testing privately supplied tap water

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Tara Haelle

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Feb. 23, 2015 (HealthDay News) — The water used to mix baby formula plays the biggest role in whether formula-fed babies are exposed to increased levels of arsenic, according to a new study.

Families that use well water instead of municipal water may need to check it for arsenic levels since well water is not regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the study authors suggested.

The study also found that formula-fed infants took in more and excreted more arsenic than breast-fed babies. However, the amounts detected were low and should not be cause for concern, said study co-author Kathryn Cottingham, a biology professor at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H.

“The most significant finding was that exposure to arsenic during early infancy in this U.S. population is quite low, regardless of feeding mode,” Cottingham said. “Most of the infants, including the formula-fed infants, in our study were exposed to very low levels of arsenic.”

The findings were reported Feb. 23 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Prior studies have shown that formula powder also contains traces of arsenic, the study authors said. In places where levels of the toxin are high, arsenic exposure has been linked to decreased mental function in children.

The researchers measured arsenic levels in the tap water of 874 New Hampshire families whose drinking water came from private, unregulated wells.

The investigators also tested for arsenic in the breast milk of nine mothers and in the urine of 72 infants at 6 weeks old.

Overall, arsenic levels in the tap water tended to be well below the EPA’s recommended upper limit of 10 micrograms per liter (mcg/L), the researchers found. The median amount — meaning half had less and half had more — was less than 1 mcg/L.

About 10 percent of the homes’ tap water had arsenic levels above the recommended limit, with the highest amount at 189 mcg/L.

“Because our study population uses water from private wells, which are not regulated, families can have high arsenic in their water and not know it,” Cottingham said. “Families must arrange for testing of private water sources. State health departments can provide guidance on accredited labs and recommended testing.”

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