Spices May be Source of Lead Poisoning

Lead, which has been known to turn up in paint and metal products, has now been found in spices, writes WebMD, citing researchers at the Children’s General Hospital in Boston.

The team associated four <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/lead_paint_poisoning">pediatric lead poisoning cases to Indian spices or ceremonial powers, with one-quarter testing with “detectable lead levels” and over half containing lead, said WebMD.

Citing some sindoor powders—traditionally applied to a woman’s scalp to indicate marriage–the team found that the products contained 47-to-64 percent lead, said WebMD. According to the team, the study concluded that immigrant children could be at increased risk of lead poisoning as a result of ongoing access to these products, said WebMD.

“Although the powders are not meant for consumption, we speculate that infants may inadvertently be exposed by hand-to-mouth transference of topically applied powders or by the hands of parents who handle the powders and then prepare foods for the infant’s consumption,” wrote researcher Cristiane Gurgel Lin, MD, PhD, of Children’s General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues in Pediatrics, quoted WebMD. Exposure in these infants may occur “in-utero, through breastfeeding, inhalation, or absorption through the skin,” explained WebMD.

Researchers analyzed “86 imported spices and 71 ceremonial powders” purchased from Boston-area stores, said WebMD. The study found that 22 spices and food products and 46 powders had detectable lead levels, added WebMD. Generally, said WebMD, the imported spices contained twice the lead levels versus brands originating in the United States. Some powders, said WebMD, were banned or recalled by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), contained over 50-percent lead, and were available for sale. Some similar Indian spices and powders can be obtained via the Internet, said WebMD.

We have long been writing about the dangers of lead exposure on the general population and, most especially to children. Lead poisoning is considered the greatest environmental health threat to children under the age of six, a very serious issue given that these children face the greatest risks since their growing bodies absorb lead easier than adult bodies.

A known neurotoxin, lead exposure can cause brain and nervous system damage in children and fetuses, behavioral and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems, headaches, mental and physical retardation, and behavioral and other health problems. Of particular concern is the developing brain because negative influences can have long-lasting effects and can continue well into puberty and beyond.

Lead is known to cause cancer and reproductive harm and, in adults, can damage the nervous system. In high doses, lead poisoning can cause seizure, coma, and death. Once poisoned by lead, no organ system is immune; experts agree that there is no safe level of lead.

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