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Pediatrics. 2005 Aug;116(2):e314-8.

Childhood lead poisoning in 2 families associated with spices used in food preparation.

Author information

1
Pediatric Environmental Health Subspecialty Unit, Children's Hospital, 300 Longwood Ave, Boston, MA 02115, USA. alan.woolf@childrens.harvard.edu

Abstract

Although most cases of childhood lead poisoning are caused by contaminated paint and dust in older homes, a variety of unusual sources of lead exposure are occasionally found. We report here 2 families whose children were poisoned by lead-contaminated spices that were purchased in foreign countries, brought to the United States, and then used in the preparation of the family's food. Six children (2-17 years old) in a family from the Republic of Georgia were poisoned by swanuri marili (lead content: 100 and 2040 mg/kg in separately sampled products) and kharchos suneli (zafron) lead content: 23,100 mg/kg) purchased from a street vendor in Tbilisi, Georgia. The second family had purchased a mixture of spices called kozhambu (lead content: 310 mg/kg) while traveling in India. Both the parents and their 2-year-old child subsequently suffered lead poisoning. The young children in both families required short-term chelation to bring their blood lead levels down to a safer range. Clinicians should be vigilant for all sources of lead contamination, including spices, when whole families are found to have elevated blood lead levels despite a confirmed lead-safe home environment. Families traveling abroad should be aware of the potential health risks associated with the purchase and use of spices that have not been tested for purity.

PMID:
16061585
DOI:
10.1542/peds.2004-2884
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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