What do lead, mercury, and arsenic have in common? They are all ingredients used in most artificial food coloring. For example, FD&C Red Number 3 contains lead and arsenic; while FD&C Yellow Number 5 contains lead, mercury and arsenic. Studies have shown that lead and mercury are not only absorbed when ingested, they are also absorbed through the skin. How prevalent is artificial food coloring? Just look in your pantry or your medicine cabinet. Everything from sports drinks, cereals, lotions, and shampoos to over the counter and prescription medicines contain artificial food coloring. Following are some examples of commonly used items that contain artificial food coloring: Food Items
- Gatorade Fruit Punch – Red #40
- Plain M&Ms – Red 40 Lake, Blue 2 Lake, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1 Lake, Red 40, Blue 1
- Kraft Macaroni & cheese – Yellow 5, Yellow 6
- Eggo Waffles – Yellow #5, Yellow #6
- Fruit Loops Red – No. 40, Blue No. 2, Yellow No. 6, Blue No. 1
- Nutrigrain Blueberry Bars – Red 40, Blue 1
- Strawberry Pop Tarts – Red 40, Yellow 6, Blue 1
- Johnson Baby Shampoo – D&C Yellow #10, D&C Orange #4
- Johnson Baby Lotion – D&C Red 33
- Dora Foam Soap – May contain FD&C Blue 1, FD&C Red 40, FD&C Yellow 5
- Disney Chapstick – D&C Red No. , FD&C Blue 1 alum lk
- Crest Kids Sparkle Paste – FD&C Blue #1
- Flintstones Vitamins – FD&C Red #40 Al Lake, FD&C Yellow 6 Al Lake FD&C Blue #2
- Tylenol Plus Cold Infant Drops – Red #33 and Red 40
- Delsym Cough Medicine – FD&C Yellow 6
Artificial food coloring has been implicated in several studies as a potential catalyst for ADHD. The Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics published information regarding 15 trials with 219 participants – all were double-blind cross-over trials. Just by eliminating artificial food colorings from their diet, children’s behavior improved significantly. Furthermore, eliminating food colorings from the diet was one-third to one-half of the size of improvements typically seen with ADHD medication therapy. In addition, an article published in The Lancet in September of this year also confirmed a link between food dyes and ADHD.
Several studies also point to the link between lead and ADHD. One of the most recent was published in The Journal of Environmental Health Perspectives. According to the Journal, children with blood lead levels of more than 2 micrograms per deciliter were four times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than children with levels below .8 microgram per deciliter. The government’s acceptable blood lead level is 10 micrograms per deciliter. The study estimates that more than 5 million 4-15 year olds in the U.S. have levels higher than 2 micrograms per deciliter. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, estimates one out of every six children in the United States has blood lead levels in the toxic range.
What Can We Do? The first step is to remove colors from your environment. This can be difficult since colors are pervasive, but there are alternatives. For instance, if you need food coloring, health food stores sell colors made from food – turmeric, blueberry, beets, etc. These can be used to make play dough as well as to color foods. Health food stores also make available muffins, toothpastes, snacks, chocolates, drinks, and OTC medications that do not contain colors. Whole Foods has a policy to not sell anything with artificial food coloring. Trader Joe’s does carry a few items with artificial food coloring, such as candy and a cleaner, but overall, there are very few products in the store with artificial food coloring. Cooking and eating as many meals as possible at home is also a step in the right direction. You can control what you put in your food. If you need to obtain medication and are not sure if it contains colors, you can check online at http://www.rxlist.com.
If your medication is made with colors, contact a compounding pharmacy to see if they can compound without all of the colors. A list of compounding pharmacies can be found at http://www.iacprx.org.