Skipping breakfast may not seem like a bad option during the daily before-school rush, but doing so could put your kids at risk for higher lead absorption. A recent study found that a full stomach in the morning could provide a strong defense against absorption of harmful lead. How harmful? The EPA has stated that lead is the “number-one environmental health threat to our children.”
Recent studies link lead levels in children to ADHD symptoms, but lead has always been a concern for young children, as it can cause learning disabilities, hearing loss and even violent behavior. Children absorb lead at a higher rate than adults, and the study concluded that lead absorption in kids could be 10 times higher on an empty stomach.
The study showed that children who did not eat a regular breakfast had more than a full microgram of lead per 100 ml of blood more than the children who ate breakfast regularly. Though the CDC has defined an elevated blood level as 10 or more micrograms per 100 ml, they report that “evidence exists for subtle effects at lower levels.”
Where does lead come from? Even with the drastic reduction in the use of leaded gasoline and lead-based paints since the bans of the 1970s, traces of lead are currently found in most foods due to lead-containing industrial emissions, and erosion of lead-containing rocks. This dangerous heavy metal is also found in the water supply as a result of these same factors, combined with the use of lead pipes and lead solder.
Frequent hand- and toy-washing, planting to avoid yard erosion and filtering water can all reduce the amount of lead your child absorbs into their body. And also, as you rush around in the morning and contemplate skipping that first meal of the day, take an extra few minutes to grab a cereal bar or a yogurt for your child. Who knew that eating breakfast could help, too?