Lead Poisoning Lurks in Spices

Photo: warriorgrrl (CC)

Photo: warriorgrrl (CC)

By Alice Park for Time:

Most parents have already cleared their children’s toy boxes of playthings containing lead-laden plastics or paint. But according to a new study published on Monday in Pediatrics, the toxic heavy metal may continue to lurk in other, less expected sources in the home — like in the kitchen pantry.

After several reports of lead poisoning in Indian children in the Boston area were linked to consumption of Indian spices, researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston and the Harvard School of Public Health decided to measure the amount of lead in the seasonings as well as in ceremonial powders commonly used to mark newborn Indian infants for religious and cultural purposes.

The team visited 15 Indian specialty stores in the Boston area and purchased 71 cultural powders and 86 spices and food products. About 25% of the food items, including spices such as cardamom, fenugreek and chili powder, contained more than 1 microgram of lead per gram of product. About 65% of the ceremonial powders, including sindoor, which is used as a symbol of marriage, contained the same amount. Those levels are below the E.U.’s acceptable threshold of 2 to 3 mcg/g of lead, but the study’s authors say that regardless of the amount, the presence of lead in these products should be a reason for concern, since they could potentially add to exposure from other sources of the neurotoxin in a child’s environment. (Three of the food products the team tested exceeded the E.U. guidelines: two brands of sindav salt and one type of sindaloo powder, or sea salt.)…

[continues at Time]