Infant  formulas still contaminated with aluminium

It has been known for decades that infant formulas are contaminated with significant amounts of aluminum but there is little evidence that manufacturers consider this to be a health issue even though aluminum is not essential and is linked to both immediate and delayed toxicity in infants, and especially preterm infants, exposed to aluminum.

However a study by a team at Keele University in Staffordshire, led by Dr Chris Exley with Shelle-Ann M Burrell found that aluminium levels in formula products was still unacceptably high.

The researchers chose 15 different branded infant formula products including powdered and ready-made liquid formulas based on cow's milk and a soya-based product for preterm babies, stage one (0-6 months) and stage two (6 months plus) infants. All products were stored according to the manufacturer's instructions and sampled directly from their packaging to avoid extraneous contamination. Ready-made liquid products were shaken between each sampling.

In general, the aluminum content of formulas prepared from powdered milks were significantly higher than ready-made milks.

The concentrations of aluminum in the milk formulas varied from ca 200 -- 700 μg/L and would result in the ingestion of up to 600 μg of aluminum per day – up to 40 times more than anb infant would get in breast milk and several times higher than are allowed in drinking water. This is clearly too high for human consumption and certainly too high for consumption by such a vulnerable group as pre-term and term infants.

Manufacturers insist that aluminum is not knowingly added to their products but there are many possible sources of such contamination including equipment used in processing, storing and packaging the formulas. The high content of aluminum in the soya-based formula probably reflects its prior accumulation in the soybean plant and the known aluminum tolerance of some soybean cultivars that are grown on acid soils.

While the present levels of aluminum in infant formulas have not been shown to cause adverse effects in healthy infants there have not been any clinical studies which refute such as a possibility while previous research has highlighted the potential connection with disorders such as prematurity, poor renal function and gastrointestinal disease. It is also widely accepted that the not fully developed physiologies of infant's gastrointestinal tract, kidneys and blood-brain barrier may predispose them to aluminum.

Click here for the full report in Science Daily

Shelle-Ann M Burrell, Christopher Exley. There is (still) too much aluminium in infant formulas. BMC Pediatrics, 2010; 10 (1): 63


First Published in 2010

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