Some popular fruit juices may contain heavy metals, according to a new report out by Consumer Reports. They tested 45 packaged fruit juices for heavy metals, like lead, arsenic, and cadmium and found measurable levels in every product. Long-term exposure to these metals could cause some serious health risks, like kidney disease and certain types of cancer.
Heavy metals are substances that make their way into food because they occur naturally in the air, water and soil. They can also wind up in food during the manufacturing and packaging processes, reports CBS News' Anna Werner.
Consumer Reports' chief scientific officer James Dickerson and his team tested 45 different juices for four heavy metal substances: inorganic arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury.
They found that every single product contained a measurable amount of at least one heavy metal, except for mercury.
Twenty-four national, store, and private-label brands were represented:
- 365 Everyday Value (Whole Foods)
- Apple & Eve
- Big Win (Rite Aid)
- Capri Sun
- Clover Valley (Dollar General)
- Great Value (Walmart),
- Gold Emblem (CVS)
- Honest Kids
- Juicy Juice
- Market Pantry (Target)
- Minute Maid
- Nature’s Own
- Ocean Spray
- Old Orchard
- R.W. Knudsen
- Simply Balanced (Target)
- Trader Joe’s,
- Tree Top
Twenty-one of the samples contained one or a combination of heavy metals that reached a level Consumer Reports researchers deemed concerning for daily consumption. They said the metals found in seven of the 21 samples had the potential to harm children who drink only a half cup per day.
How Heavy Metals Can Harm
The harmful effects of heavy metals are well-documented. Depending on how long children are exposed to these toxins and how much they are exposed to, they may be at risk for lowered IQ, behavioral problems (such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), type 2 diabetes, and cancer, among other health issues.
According to the CDC, long-term exposure to heavy metals may put people at risk for kidney disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, damaged ability to learn and certain types of cancer.
Though the risks of heavy metals from any one source may be low, when people are exposed to even small amounts from multiple sources, over time the danger multiplies.
And such exposure is common. Previous tests from CR and others have found elevated levels of heavy metals not just in juices but also in infant and toddler foods, rice and rice products, protein powder, some types of fish, and sweet potatoes. The toxins may also be in the environment, including the water, the air, and the soil.
“In the course of a lifetime, the average person will come into contact with these metals many times, from many sources,” says Tunde Akinleye, a chemist in Consumer Reports’ Food Safety division who led our testing. “We’re exposed to these metals so frequently during our lives that it’s vital to limit exposures early on.”
Heavy metals may be less risky to adults, but exposure can still lead to health problems. Over many years, even modest amounts of heavy metals may raise the risk of bladder, lung, and skin cancer; cognitive and reproductive problems; and type 2 diabetes, among other conditions.
And arsenic, cadmium, and lead each pose their own set of potential harms. Lead, for example, is associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, and fertility problems. Arsenic is linked to cardiovascular disease. And long-term cadmium exposure increases the risk of bone damage and kidney disease, among other issues.
Still, Dickerson says it’s never too late to change dietary habits even if you, or your children, have been drinking juices higher in heavy metals. “The risk comes from chronic exposure,” he says. “Minimizing consumption of juices and other foods that have heavy metals can reduce the chance of negative outcomes in the future.”