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August 31, 2016

Bovine Growth Hormone Concerns for Toddler Health

Bovine Growth Hormone

Bovine growth hormone (also abbreviated as bGH, rbGH, or bST) is sometimes given to dairy cows so that they will create more milk and mature at a faster rate. The hormone is naturally produced by the animal’s pituitary gland. However, an additional amino acid is added before cattle are injected with it.

It was first used in 1993, and within ten years, one out of every five dairy cows was receiving growth hormone injections. Soon, though, that number fell by half. There are numerous opposition groups pushing for the hormone to be banned and completely pulled from the market due to concerns about the safety of its use.

Parental Concern

Parents may have questions regarding bGH and the potential drawbacks of letting their toddlers drink milk from cows injected with the hormone. As it turns out, there are a few possible reasons for concern.

Is bGH-laced milk safe for children?

The answer depends on the source. The Food and Drug Administration, Department of Health and Human Services, and National Institutes of Health, among other federal programs, have said that milk containing growth hormones is safe for human consumption at any age. Critics, however, cite potential serious health issues in their argument that additional testing is needed. Further, they claim the FDA approved bGH too quickly and did not do enough research.

Why are there safety worries?

Several consumer groups, including the Cancer Prevention Coalition, have voiced concerns that bovine growth hormone could potentially be harmful to human health. They point out that bGH has been banned in numerous areas around the world for that very reason – Canada, Japan, Australia, Israel, New Zealand, and the entire European Union. Many of these bans went into effect before 2000, and there are several concerns cited.

Antibiotic-resistant Bacteria

It has been found that cows injected with bGH are more susceptible to certain health problems such as reproductive issues, lameness, and udder infections. Consequently, the antibiotics that are used to treat those infections very often show up in the milk, especially since cattle injected with growth hormones take longer to treat. On its own, the presence of antibiotics may not be a reason to worry, but it could contribute to the current public health issue of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

heightened production of Insulin-like growth factor-1

Further, some are worried about the fact that the injections lead to heightened production of Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) in dairy cows. Research suggests elevated IGF-1 levels might enhance the risk of certain cancers in humans. Supporters of growth hormone use say that neither bGH nor IGF-1 is dangerous because our digestive systems break them down before they can reach the bloodstream. However, some studies suggest IGF-1 can pass into the intestines intact.

Can milk from bGH-injected cows be avoided?

Absolutely. Despite the resistance to public demand to label bGH milk, there are other options for parents. Look for milk that is labeled “rbGH-free” or offer children organic pasteurized milk.

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