Tumeric Spices May Cause Child Lead Poisoning In Some Cases, CDC Report Warns

Child hospitalized with lead levels 13 times higher than those considered actionable detected was found to be poisoned by tumeric spices in the home.

Federal health officials are warning that common household spices may contain dangerous levels of lead, which can have devastating, lifelong consequences for young children.

In a new case study in this week’s issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), researchers identified the presence of lead in turmeric spices used for cooking and food preparation.

According to the report, the Office of Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance of the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) was contacted by a local pediatrician in March 2019, indicating a two year old child (Child A) was found to have an abnormally high blood lead level of 48 μg/dL, which more than 13 times the actionable level set forth by federal health regulators.

Shortly after, the same pediatrician reported a second incident of a 9 month old girl (Child B), who is the cousin of the child in the first reported incident and lives in a separate household. This second child had blood levels of 11 μg/dL. Officials indicated Child A was admitted to a local hospital for several days to receive the recommended oral chelation therapy and to address dangerous blood lead levels and abnormal changes in the child’s hemoglobin and red blood cell counts.

Following the reports, the Southern Nevada Health District issued a questionnaire to both families to identify potential sources of lead exposure, and ordered a certified assessor conduct a lead-risk assessment to identify and recommend removal of lead sources in the home.

The findings of the assessment indicated turmeric and rice seasoning spices purchased by the families from a local market, and some imported from Afghanistan, contained lead levels of 15,000 mg/kg and 3,000 mg/kg in the turmeric spices, raising concerns about potential continued exposures in the surrounding community.

After removing the turmeric spices from the home, officials subsequently tested several brands of turmeric spices from local markets and were unable to identify any specific brand with elevated levels of lead.

The CDC warns these findings support other reports of lead-contaminated turmeric in the United States, and highlights the importance of communication between health care providers and health department staff members in identifying potential links among lead poisoning cases.

Concerns About Child Lead Poisoning Risks

Child lead poisoning is considered the most preventable environmental disease in the United States, often caused by exposure to toxic lead-based paint or other products that contain dangerous levels of lead, which may result in life-long disability.

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Lead Poisoning Lawsuits

Children diagnosed with lead poisoning after exposure to peeling or chipping lead paint in a rental home may be entitled to financial compensation and benefits.

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More than half a million children in the U.S, have lead blood levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter, which was previously considered the CDC’s “level of concern” reference. However, the threshold of concern was challenged earlier this year by the Lead Exposure Prevention and Advisory Committee (LEPAC), which consists of 15 Federal and non-Federal experts in the fields of epidemiology, toxicology, mental health, pediatrics, early childhood education, special education, diet and nutrition, and environmental health.

Based on the advisory committee’s recommendations, the CDC decided earlier this month to significantly lower the actionable blood lead reference value level to 3.5 µg/dL from 5 µg/dL in U.S. children age’s one through five years old.

According to the CDC, the change in criteria is aimed at focusing resources on children with the highest BLLs, compared to most U.S. children ages 1-5, so more prompt actions can be taken to reduce their levels, mitigate health effects, and identify or eliminate sources of lead exposure.

Lead exposure during childhood can affect a child’s ability to learn and develop. While routine testing can detect elevated blood lead levels in children, health experts emphasize there is no safe blood level of lead exposure, Side effects of lead poisoning can result in nervous system injury, brain damage, seizures or convulsions, cognitive impairment, coma and even death for young children.

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