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Are there heavy metals in your kid's juice? The details of Consumer Reports' investigation

We spoke to Consumer Reports and they had one message: Don't panic.

Are there heavy metals in your kid's juice? The details of Consumer Reports' investigation

On Wednesday morning Consumer Reports released the results of its recent investigation into the amount of heavy metals in fruit juices. Parents woke up to find headlines like "Your fruit juice contains arsenic, cadmium and lead" in their newsfeeds as many kids around the country were sipping juice with breakfast.

Such headlines can raise parental anxiety, but Motherly spoke with James Dickerson, Ph.D., Consumer Reports' chief scientific officer, and he has a message for parents: "Don't panic." According to Dickerson, you don't have to throw away your fruit juices, but you might want to be more mindful about portion sizes and frequency.

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The investigation saw Consumer Reports test 45 fruit juices (apple, grape, pear, and fruit blends) sold in stores across America for elevated levels of the heavy metals: Arsenic, mercury cadmium, and lead. Exposure to heavy metals has been linked with health issues including diabetes, cancer, and cognitive and behavioral issues, the investigators note.

Dickerson also notes that the heavy elements investigated are naturally occurring: "They're in the atmosphere, they're in the soil, they're everywhere. You cannot eliminate them 100%. That's not possible."

That being said, we can and should try to reduce our exposure to products with elevated levels.

Consumer Reports notes that the investigation was not meant to "draw definitive conclusions about specific brands" (but more information on the brands tested and how they scored can be found on the Consumer Reports website) but rather as a spot check on the entire market.

It found that elevated levels of heavy metals in almost half the juices, levels that can be harmful when people are chronically exposed, and as little as 4 ounces a day could be enough to cause that kind of chronic exposure. And four ounces isn't a lot.

"If you take the average person and give them a bottle of juice and give them the average glass, they pour it in. You are going to pour, more likely than not, eight ounces of juice," Dickerson tells Motherly.

He's not at all suggesting that parents ban juice, but rather that we consider reducing our kids' consumption "not just in terms of the frequency but also the amount."

The new report follows a similar investigation in 2011, and Dickerson says that while fruit juices still contain levels of heavy metals that can e harmful in cases of chronic exposure, the industry has taken steps to make juices safer.

"If you look at the state of heavy elements of juice back in 2011 compared to our most recent study the levels on average were substantially lower now than they were back in 2011," he tells Motherly.

Dickerson applauds the industry for making the changes that brought down those levels, but says more changes in the manufacturing process, and in Washington, could make juices even safer.

Consumer Reports is encouraging manufacturers to do better at sourcing the raw fruit for juices to ensure the initial fruit has fewer heavy metals. The equipment used to make the juice and containers it is sold in can also play a role, and Dickerson encourages manufacturers to "address those potential exposures at the sourcing, at the manufacturing, at the bottling points, to try to make sure that their products have as minimal as possible contaminants."

He's also calling for the FDA to finalize specific limits for the amount of inorganic arsenic, lead and cadmium acceptable in juices.

The bottom line for parents: Consider smaller servings of juice on fewer occasions if you want to reduce your family's exposure to heavy metals.

The American Academy of Pediatrics already recommends no fruit juice for kids under one, and only small amounts in moderation for older kids. According to the AAP, juice should not be a substitute for fresh fruit, as it's got more sugar and calories but none of the fiber.

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This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

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Life

Every parent can relate to these funny tweets about the presidential debate

If you've refereed siblings you can relate to Chris Wallace.

Wendi Aarons/Screenshot

The first presidential debate was painful to watch for many reasons. The sitting president of the United States failed to condemn white supremacy when asked, and while both President Trump and Joe Biden spoke nearly constantly, they didn't say much of value.

It was disappointing for stressed parents who would have rather heard more about policy and the future of America instead of watching two men interrupt and insult each other.

The candidates spent a significant amount of time talking over each other, asking the other to shut up and deflecting questions from moderator Chris Wallace, whose position was instantly relatable to any parent who has had to ask their children to stop squabbling at the dinner table.

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These viral tweets sum up the debate perfectly:

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