A study by Consumer Reports (CR) shows many popular fruit juices contain potentially harmful levels of arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and lead.
CR tested 45 popular juices, including apple, pear, grape, and fruit blends, from various retailers across the country. They found heavy metals in almost half of them, including juices marketed for children.
“In some cases, drinking just 4 ounces a day — or half a cup — is enough to raise concern,” says James Dickerson, Ph.D., CR’s chief scientific officer.
Children are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of heavy metals. More than 80% of parents with children under 3 years of age give their kids fruit juice at least sometimes, says a CR study. In 74% of those cases, kids drink juice once or more each day.
“Exposure to these metals early on can affect their whole life trajectory,” says Jennifer Lowry, M.D., chairperson of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Environmental Health, as well as director of clinical pharmacology, toxicology, and therapeutic innovations at Children’s Mercy Kansas City. “There is so much development happening in their first years of life.”
The analysis sheds light on a more widespread practice. Previous tests from CR and others have found elevated levels of heavy metals not just in juices but in infant and toddler foods, rice and rice products, protein powder, some types of fish, and sweet potatoes.
“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 the testing. “We’re exposed to these metals so frequently during our lives that it’s vital to limit exposures early on.”
Exposure to heavy metals can lead to health problems even for adults. Modest amounts of metals may raise the risk of bladder, lung, and skin cancer, lead to cognitive and reproductive problems and type 2 diabetes, among other conditions.
Adults are encouraged to limit juice consumption and avoid eating high-mercury species of fish, such as shark and swordfish, bone broth, conventionally grown rice, rice products, and sweet potatoes. Your best bet may be to consume only organic versions of these products.