The Environmental Law Foundation filed Notices of Violation of California Proposition 65 Toxics Right to Know Law this month, alleging the toxic chemical lead was found in a variety of children’s and baby foods.


The specific food categories included apple juice, grape juice, packaged pears and peaches, and fruit cocktail. A complete list appears within the notice.


juice-box-kid.jpgThe notice claims that the children’s foods contain enough lead in a single serving that the products require a warning under California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (“Proposition 65” or “Prop 65”).

Toxicologist Barbara G. Callahan of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who has spent two decades performing public health and environmental risk assessments, called the lead concentrations in the foundation’s test results “alarming.”


Under Prop 65, the Governor publishes a list of chemicals “known to the State to cause cancer or reproductive harm.” Lead is listed as both and was among the first substances listed in 1987. According to Before It’s News, if any consumer product contains a listed chemical at a level that presents a “significant risk” the manufacturer and retailer must give a “clear and reasonable warning” about the exposure.


The Environmental Law Foundation pinpointed categories of food and beverages for testing by examining publicly available government-sponsored testing and published studies. The foundation focused on food product categories that children like and eat often and which the data showed had widespread presence of lead.  The foundation collected and tested as many brands in each category as it could locate in California.


According to Callahan, “Lead exposure among children is a particular concern because their developing bodies absorb lead at a higher rate and because children are particularly sensitive to lead’s toxic effects, including decreased I.Q.” Lead exposure also represents a heightened risk among pregnant and nursing women because lead passes from the mother to the developing fetus or infant.


“Lead already stored in the mother’s bone tissue is mobilized along with calcium,” explained Callahan, “and additional lead exposure to the mother can further compromise the health of the most vulnerable among us.”


Lead that has continuously been released into the environment from decades of lead-based pesticide application, use of leaded gasoline and paint, and the burning of coal in power plants can make its way into our food supply.


The Environmental Law Foundation’s Notices were sent to law enforcement officials, including the California Attorney General and 58 county District Attorneys, and to the affected manufacturers, retailers, and distributors, notifying them that particular food products frequently consumed by children contain lead at levels high enough to require a warning under Proposition 65.


These companies must now bring themselves into compliance with Proposition 65 by either reducing or eliminating the lead, or by placing “clear and reasonable warnings” on the food packages. If, at the end of 60 days, no law enforcement agency is prosecuting the violation, the Environmental Law Foundation will file suit to enforce the law, reported Before It’s News.


The notices were based on testing performed on 398 samples of 146 different branded products in the five categories. Samples were purchased throughout California. A list of all products tested (PDF)  and whether they did or did not exceed Prop 65’s warning threshold is also found on the foundation’s website.


“[The Environmental Law Foundation] has fought to protect families from lead exposures for two decades,” said Jim Wheaton, President of the foundation. “We know the risk these exposures pose for children, and we know that our efforts can help keep children safer.”