MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Luke Scola was born prematurely. His mother, Sara, was convinced that using the Baby Bullet was the only way she could really control what he was putting in his mouth.
"I did it because I wanted to know what he was eating, and it's cheaper," said Sara Scola. "I can get more for my money. For 88 cents or 50 cents, whatever it is for a jar of sweet potatoes, I can make 10 to 14 jars. So, the money-saving aspect is amazing and wonderful."
Her excitement gave way to concern when allegations of lead in the Baby Bullet began circulating on social media. For Scola, it was enough to stop her in her tracks.
"I kind of freaked out because knowing that my son was a preemie, I thought I was doing everything correctly," Scola said. "I was trying to make sure he didn't get any toxins, anything that would possibly harm him."
To get answers for our viewers, WMBF News purchased the Baby Bullet and shipped it off to IMR Metallurgical Services, a certified lab equipped with the technology to detect lead.
Three pieces of metal were in question: the top blade, the bottom nut and the screw that connects the two. The blade and screw, which would come into contact with food, were well within federal requirements, with less than 30 parts per million.
The bottom nut, which we've learned is made of aluminum, came back with 705 parts per million. The metallurgist who ran the test says 705 parts per million is not out of the ordinary for an aluminum alloy piece in any product you'll find on store shelves. He tells us that ballpoint pens, for example, are often made of leaded steel with 1500 to 3500 parts per million.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) remains adamant that food contamination from the bottom nut to the area where food is pureed is impossible.
Dr. Kristen Carr of the Carolina Health Specialists said research shows there's no safe level of lead exposure, and when it comes to this toxic metal, it's better to be safe than sorry.
"At this point, as we move forward and learn that there are no safe levels of lead exposure, and with our primary aim to reduce all exposure to it, I would say if there is some concern," said Dr. Carr. "Why do it? If there is a product out there may have lead in it, why would you take that risk?"
The Centers for Disease Control states lead poisoning can affect nearly every system in our bodies, and because there are no obvious symptoms, it often goes unrecognized. What we do know is that it can cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and in extreme cases, seizures, coma, and even death.
During our investigation Sara also voiced her concern about what many parents are calling a choking hazard.
"There's a nick right there," one parent pointed out, referring to a cut in the gasket securing the lid. She claims the blender's blade could slice a small piece from the gasket and present a choking hazard.
According to the CPSC, 10 parents have complained about this very issue just in the last ten months. Out of millions of Baby Bullet systems sold, 10 isn't an alarming number, but one mom claims she pulled a one-inch piece of the plastic out of her son's mouth.
"The concern is not only that it would get lodged or stuck in the esophagus, but that also through the rest of the GI tract," Dr. Carr said. "There are other areas that it could get stuck, either in the stomach or the gut."
The company's legal staff provided this response:
"The Baby Bullet® does not present a 'choking hazard' when operated in accordance with its instructions and User Guide. If the food grade silicon gasket is inspected and properly seated prior to operation of the product, it is physically impossible for the blades to contact or dislodge the gasket."
Health Canada, the Canadian equivalent to CPSC, released a consumer alert in late 2011, saying parents who own this product need to make sure they are installing the gasket and inspecting it before turning it on. But like the company that makes Baby Bullet, they claim these pieces are not likely to pose a choking hazard, and are not toxic if ingested.
Scola said with the evidence she's been shown, the Baby Bullet is still not for her.
"I would have liked to have known about it," she said. "I think I would have changed my idea of buying a product that isn't baby-friendly, but it's a little late. There's no sweeping this under the rug. This is something that could harm any child."
WMBF News has learned there are no federal lead requirements to the bottom of the Baby Bullet unit in question or any appliance because the CPSC emphasizes there is no chance of contamination with the food.
They do limit how much lead is in "children's products" like toys or furniture: there is a strict requirement of under 100 parts per million on basically anything that kids use directly.