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Heavy metals aren’t just something to avoid if you don’t like Black Sabbath. But while you’ve probably heard of this group of elements (and the dangers associated with ingesting them), you might not know why they’re such a worry to health experts.
This is all especially relevant given how many products we’re finding heavy metals in. Baby food is just the latest. Consumer Reports tested a variety of the top brands and found every product has measurable levels of at least one heavy metal, and two-thirds had worrisome levels. You should read their full report, but even the basic outline of their findings raises some questions. How much is a ‘worrisome’ amount? Where do these metals come from? How many am I being exposed to? These are all important questions—some of them with surprising answers—so we boiled it down to the essentials so you can get the info you need.
What is a heavy metal?
There’s no strict definition for a heavy metal, but they’re generally considered to be high density, literally heavy metals, as in those elements in the metals section of the periodic table of elements. Some people also define heavy metals as those that are toxic, though some are biologically necessary in small quantities yet dangerous in large ones.
Way - List - Metals - Cadmium - Mercury
Either way, the list of heavy metals generally includes arsenic, lead, cadmium, mercury, chromium, copper, zinc, nickel, selenium, silver, antimony, manganese, and several others. The Food & Drug Administration only has specific safety levels for a few of these—cadmium, lead, arsenic, and mercury—because those are the elements within this category that most commonly make their way into the food supply. The Environmental Protection Agency also monitors heavy metals, since they’re environmental contaminants. But all this being said, there’s no one definition of “heavy metal” and they’re not all equally dangerous. Generally, health...
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