According to a new study, formula-fed babies may have an increased exposure to arsenic, compared to those who are breastfed. This is because the powder and water used to make formula could potentially be sources of this dangerous element. As a natural semi-metallic chemical, arsenic can be found in groundwater, and when ingested or inhaled in large quantities, can result in serious health complications. The study did not reveal what health effects low levels of arsenic exposure could cause.
In an article published in the journal of Environmental Health Perspectives, Kathryn Cottingham, and her research team noted that parents who choose to formula feed should not feel guilty about their decision; rather ensure they test the water they use for their baby`s formula.
The study acknowledges that arsenic is produced naturally within bedrocks, and quite often is a contaminant of well water. While the U.S. regulates arsenic within public drinking water, there are no standards when it comes to private wells. The study was conducted in New Hampshire, a state where private wells produce water for close to 40% of the population. Approximately 10% of these wells in the state contain arsenic levels of more than 10 micrograms per liter; producing drinking water that the public is consuming.
Studies in the past have proven that despite a mother being exposed to large amounts of arsenic, this does not translate into their breast milk; making it a safer feeding option when it comes to the poisonous element.
Researchers reviewed urine samples from New Hampshire infants aged six-week-old, whose moms were recruited for the study while pregnant. 72 babies were studied in total: with 70% exclusively breastfed, 13% only on formula; and 17% receiving both formula and breast milk. While overall arsenic exposures were low, the findings revealed that formula fed infants had increased traces of the chemical compared to the babies who had mixed feedings of both breast milk and formula. Those infants who were only breast fed had the lowest arsenic levels in the study. The research team also reviewed tap water from participants’ and past data. As such, they concluded that approximately 70% of the arsenic levels from their research came from powered baby formula.
The team could not comment on what kind of future health concerns could affect formula-fed infants, or individuals exposed to higher levels of arsenic.