MILWAUKEE -- So many of us reach for protein powder to put in a morning smoothie.
Leaders with non-profit organization Clean Label Project found toxins in many of the products they tested. Executive Director Jaclyn Bowen says they teamed up with an independent third-party analytical chemistry laboratory called Ellipse Analytics. Ellipse is an accredited lab out of Colorado.
"The sample needed to be prepared just like a serving - just like how you would make your morning smoothie," said Bowen.
Bowen says she was stunned when the results showed more than 50-percent of the products tested had measurable levels of BPA.
"BPA is known as an endocrine disruptor. An endocrine disruptor is a chemical that acts like a hormone in your system," Bowen said.
The results were based on star ratings for overall purity. One star is below average. Five stars is above average. The brands with the best ranking of five stars were Biochem, Jarrow Formulas and Puori.
"Often times that suggests that the brand is doing additional diligence when it comes to ingredient sourcing, and doing actual testing to make sure that their products have lower levels," Bowen said.
Bowen said the five-star brands had two things in common, they were whey-based protein powder and vanilla flavored.
"Plant-based protein powders were by far the dirtiest and most contaminated and we also found that products that were chocolate based had higher levels of heavy metals," explained Bowen, "What exactly is the root cause of this is still uncertain."
The brand Vega was scored with 1.2 stars. Eleven of their products tested, came back wih the highest amount of toxic metals which include arsenic, mercury, cadmium and lead.
"There is no safe levels of lead because of the ability to cause long term adverse health effects," said Bowen.
Scripps station WTMJ in Milwaukee reached out to the makers of Vega for comment Monday and have not received a response as of Wednesday morning's broadcast.
Three protein powders sold by Sunwarrior scored second lowest with 1.7 stars.
"Compared to the other products tested they had elevated levels of heavy metals," said Bowen.
WTMJ also reached out to the makers of Sunwarrior for comment Monday and have not received a response as of Wednesday morning's broadcast.
Garden of Life's five products tested had the third lowest score, with 1.8 stars.
A spokeswoman for Garden of Life sent WTMJ this statement:
"We will continue to dig into the methodology of this recent study. Heavy metals are naturally occurring in the environment and found in whole foods. Garden of Life has created relationships with organic farmers to ensure our whole foods-based products are fully traceable. Our proteins are the cleanest, most thoroughly tested, third-party inspected and certified products available on the market. Certified USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified seals offer our most credible means of substantiation. We conform to all safety and quality measures, including rigorous California Prop 65 standards. We are open, transparent, and most of all, clean."
There are many other recognizable names ranked on the list. Click here to read them all.