(PTI) In one more reason why mothers should breastfeed their babies as long as possible, scientists in UK have found that formula milk contain 40 times more aluminium than breast milk, potentially putting the toddlers' health at risk.
Researchers at the Keele University, Staffordshire, who examined 16 of the UK's leading formula milk brands meant for children up to the age of one, found that traces of the metal in those products are much higher than is legally allowed in water.
One formula made by Cow & Gate — specifically marketed for premature babies — had the highest level of all, with more than 800 micrograms per litre, the researchers said.
European law states water can contain no more than 200 micrograms of aluminium per litre, the Daily Mail reported.
Dr Chris Exley, who led the study, said: "We've known about the high aluminium content in infant formula for many years and there is evidence to show it is potentially quite dangerous.
"It has been linked to neurological diseases and bone defects in later life and there are even links with dementia.
"Everyone has aluminium in their bodies but infants are especially prone to absorbing it and are not so good at getting rid of it."
However, Dr Exley stressed that it is not the case that a child is not going to drop down dead if they drink it.
Manufacturers say they do not add aluminium to their products, but many formulas are often packaged in aluminium foil.
It also occurs naturally in soya plants due to the acidic soil they are grown in, so experts advise soya milk formulas should be used only on the advice of a GP.
The Food Standards Agency does not provide a 'safe' limit for aluminium in formula milk, but Dr Exley said manufacturers should lower the level dramatically or print it on the label so parents have an informed choice.
Dr Exley said: "It is concerning, especially when the product with the highest level of aluminium we found was aimed at premature babies, who are likely to be the most vulnerable of all. It is really shocking.
"Millions of parents have no choice but to feed their children this milk. I would advise if they are using ready-made milk to switch to powder as it contains lower levels."
The research is published in the journal BMC Pediatrics.