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J Med Toxicol. 2013 Mar;9(1):16-20. doi: 10.1007/s13181-012-0225-3.

A comparison of the prevalence of lead-contaminated imported Chinese ceramic dinnerware purchased inside versus outside Philadelphia's Chinatown.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA.


Lead-contaminated ceramics can be a clinically significant source of lead poisoning, with the potential to cause illness in children and adults; one death in a child has been described. We hypothesized that the prevalence of lead-contaminated ceramics would be higher within Chinatown versus outside of Chinatown. The study was a prospective observational cross-sectional study. Two areas were defined geographically as being within and outside of Philadelphia's Chinatown, and a predefined number of items were purchased in each area. Each item was screened for lead utilizing a colorimetric testing swab. Positive items were leached for lead using the ASTM C738-94 protocol for lead level quantification. The primary outcome was the prevalence of ceramics not compliant with the FDA standard for leachable lead within and outside of Philadelphia's Chinatown. A total of 132 items were purchased, 46 outside of and 86 within Chinatown. More lead-positive items originated within Chinatown than outside of Chinatown [five positive items, 5.8 % prevalence within Chinatown (95 % confidence interval, CI, 2.5-12.9 %), and zero positive, 0 % prevalence outside of Chinatown (95 % CI 0-7.5 %)]. However, this difference was not found to be statistically significant (P = 0.1624). The leachable lead-positive items were up to 40-fold the acceptable FDA levels. Testing a larger number of items may demonstrate a significant source of lead exposure.

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