Dietary Exposure to Toxic Elements and the Health of Young Children: Methodological Considerations and Data Needs

J Nutr. 2022 Nov;152(11):2572-2581. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxac185. Epub 2022 Oct 4.


Concerns have been raised regarding toxic-element (arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury) contamination of commercially available infant foods around the world. Young children are vulnerable to the effects of toxic elements, based on higher absorption levels and potentially poorer detoxification capacities. Toxic-element exposures in early life exact high societal costs, but it is unclear how much dietary exposure to these elements contributes to adverse health outcomes. Well-designed epidemiological studies conducted in different geographical and socioeconomic contexts need to estimate dietary toxicant exposure in young children and to determine whether causal links exist between toxicants in children's diets and health outcomes. This commentary outlines the methodological considerations and data needs to advance such research.

Keywords: child health; diet; food safety; metals; toxicant exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Arsenic* / analysis
  • Arsenic* / toxicity
  • Cadmium / analysis
  • Cadmium / toxicity
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet
  • Dietary Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Mercury* / analysis
  • Mercury* / toxicity


  • Mercury
  • Arsenic
  • Cadmium