Toxic Baby Foods and Tylenol: A Destructive Duo Linked to Autism, 6 Natural Alternatives

This is a guest post by Jonathan Sharp, Chief Financial Officer at Environmental Litigation Group, P.C.

Baby food is supposed to nourish children and support healthy development. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, as four popular baby food manufacturers were found to allow dangerous concentrations of heavy metals in their products by a congressional investigation. Since heavy metals are neurotoxic, exposure by ingestion can wreak havoc on children’s neurodevelopment and eventually cause autism. Furthermore, children exposed to Tylenol in the womb and 21% more likely to exhibit signs of ADHD, according to a European Journal of Epidemiology study.

The issue of baby food contamination is very serious, and to understand the extent of it, the following are a few highlights from the congressional report. Beech-Nut, one of the oldest baby food companies in the country, allowed 913 ppb arsenic in its raw ingredients when the safe limit is just 10 ppb. Nurture, which manufactures baby food under the name HappyBABY, sold finished products containing 641 ppb lead when the safe limit is only 5 ppb. Hain Celestial Group, which sells baby food under the brand Earth’s Best Organic, allowed 260 ppb cadmium in their products when the safe limit is also 5 ppb.

While the investigators had initially asked seven baby food companies to share their internal documents and have their products tested, Walmart, Sprout Organic Foods, and Campbell refused to participate. This may indicate that their baby food is even more problematic when it comes to heavy metal contamination. A fact that supports this theory is that in the fall of 2021, Plum Organics, which manufactures baby food for Walmart, recalled 3 lots of Parent’s Choice rice baby cereal because of the high arsenic levels in the products.

The Link Between Exposure to Heavy Metals from Baby Food and Autism

Due to their neurotoxicity, arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury can irreversibly affect the brain. Infants and toddlers are particularly vulnerable to the impact of exposure to these metals, as they have a greater nutrient uptake by the gastrointestinal tract and underdeveloped detoxification systems. At first, after ingesting small concentrations of heavy metals, children may exhibit signs of neurotoxicity, such as weakness in the arms and legs, headaches, cognitive and behavioral problems, and loss of memory. 

Over time, toxic metals accumulate in children’s brains, as they can easily cross the blood-brain barrier and cause oxidative stress, which is a hallmark of autism. Furthermore, if a high mercury level is present in the cerebellar areas of the brain, neurotrophin-3, a marker of oxidative stress, will be found in the child’s body. While all four heavy metals in baby food are highly toxic, lead is perhaps the most dangerous to developing children, as exposure may cause permanent mental capacity loss, even in small amounts.

Currently, 1 in 36 children nationwide struggles with autism, a rate that has been increasing alarmingly over the past decade. Exposure to heavy metals from baby food might play a major role in the prevalence of this disorder, and so might taking acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, excessively during pregnancy. It is important to note that women taking this medication occasionally and in small doses are not at risk of having a child with autism or ADHD. 

3 Effective Tylenol Alternatives for Pregnant Women

While there are other medications you can take instead of Tylenol to relieve pain and reduce fever, such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxene, these might also come with a risk, so you should always consult with your doctor before taking any of these. You can try three natural alternatives to Tylenol, but you should also consult your doctor first. When it comes to the health of your pregnancy, even natural alternatives should be first discussed with your physician. 

1. Capsaicin

Derived from chilli peppers, capsaicin works by reducing Substance P, a pain transmitter in your nerves. Capsaicin is also used to help relieve minor pain associated with muscle sprains and strains. It is a topical remedy, which means that it should be applied to the part of the body where you feel pain. Capsaicin usually comes in the form of gel or cream and it might cause a tingling ot mild burning sensation when applied.

2. Wet Compresses for Fever

Wet compresses help reduce your body’s temperature, and hot compresses can also do the job. If you start feeling uncomfortably hot, remove the compresses and apply cool ones to your forehead, wrists, and calves. Keep the rest of the body covered. Change the wet compresses as they warm to body temperature and continue until the fever drops. Nevertheless, if you have a very high fever that cannot be controlled, you should immediately seek medical assistance, as  fever can be dangerous for the baby if left untreated.

3. Turmeric

According to a study, curcuma, the ingredient in turmeric, can be as effective as ibuprofen in relieving pain for 4 weeks. Turmeric is also a herbal remedy for reducing inflammation. To include turmeric in its natural form in your diet, add it to curries, smoothies, or juices. You can also find turmeric supplements on the market. Turmeric is available as a capsule, tablet, or extract, the latter being more likely to be free of contaminants.

How to Avoid Heavy Metals in Your Child’s Diet

While homemade baby food may contain as many toxic metals as found in stores, you can take certain steps to significantly lower your child’s intake of these contaminants. The following are three simple ways you can minimize the heavy metal content in your child’s diet.

1. Breastfeeding

The good news is that over 80% of American women breastfeed their children. However, just one-third continue to do so for one year or longer, as pediatricians recommend. Breastfeeding your baby for as long as possible is essential for two reasons – it delays their need for baby food and brings  many health benefits

Children who were breastfed are less likely to experience asthma, diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome, lung infections, stomach bugs, and ear infections. Moreover, breastfeeding reduces the mother’s chances of developing breast cancer, high blood pressure, and ovarian cancer.

2. Rice

White rice can absorb up to 20 more arsenic from the ground and water than other crops, which is why you should give it to your baby as rarely as possible. It is important to cook it in a lot of water that you drain off when the meal is ready. This will eliminate some of the arsenic content. Good alternatives to white rice are basmati and sushi rice, as these contain less arsenic.

3. Fish

Some fish contain high mercury concentrations, so you should choose the kind you feed your child carefully. Good options include salmon, anchovies, pollock, flounder, plaice, catfish, and haddock, while the fish you should avoid include swordfish, fresh tuna, marlin, king mackerel, and tilefish. Fish take up mercury from oceans and streams as they feed, and cooking it can only slightly remove this heavy metal from it.

Still unsure about what to feed your baby? Now, by virtue of the Toxic Baby Food Replacement Initiative, you can request products made by ethical companies that periodically test for toxic metals and other harmful contaminants. All you have to do is fill out the form at the bottom of the page, and someone will contact you shortly for more details.

About the Author

Jonathan Sharp is Chief Financial Officer at Environmental Litigation Group, P.C. Headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, the law firm assists parents of children who developed autism due to having been fed toxic baby food and in utero exposure to acetaminophen. Jonathan Sharp is responsible for the management of firm assets, case evaluation, and financial analysis.