Lifestyle

Family of 5 struck by lead poisoning from ceramic pottery glaze

A family of five is recovering from lead poisoning after health officials discovered they’d been using contaminated cookware.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Friday that the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene was led to the family following routine blood screening in 2017 of an unnamed 3-year-old.

Subsequent testing of the parents and two other adult children revealed that they’d all been exposed to high levels of the toxic mineral, with alarming blood lead levels — at or above 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) — in November 2020.

Investigators eventually learned that the glazed ceramic ware they’d used to cook, prepare and store food and drink was contaminated with high levels of lead. Later, once they’d stopped using the pottery, their lead levels trended down.

The young child’s initial screening showed blood lead levels at 7 µg/dL. At that time, the DOHMH’s threshold to demand a home inspection was set at 10 µg/dL — so they sent letters to the child’s guardians with a warning and advice on how to reduce lead exposure, which included a recommendation to cease use of traditional glazed cookware.

The build-up of lead can lead to symptoms affecting the whole body, including gastrointestinal, neurological, behavioral and developmental. It’s especially concerning in children, for whom lead may cause developmental delays. Abdominal and joint pain, headache, irritability, memory loss, constipation, vomiting and fatigue are all common side effects. Without intervention, it can lead to death.

Health officials have previously warned about the lead dangers of traditional pottery, including wares from Ecuador, Mexico, Morocco, Turkey, Uzbekistan and the US, according to the DOHMH.
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In 2018, the child returned to their healthcare provider for another blood test, which detected a blood lead level of 5 µg/dL. Again, DOHMH representatives sent a letter to the family and their doctor, recommending all members be tested.

The child’s two adults siblings were tested next; each showed levels of 17 and 53 µg/dL. Later, the father and mother complied and returned with blood lead levels of 37 and 16 µg/dL, respectively.

Follow-up interviews and X-ray fluorescence screenings revealed that the family was using traditional style cooking and dining ware from Mexico for cooking and storing food, as well as making coffee. The family declined further in-depth investigation, such as a home inspection or occupational interviews. Health officials say it’s unclear to what extent their work, homeware or food had also contributed to lead exposure.

However, once the family ceased use of the ceramic ware, their blood levels dropped to between 2 and 21 µg/dL within four months, and 1 to 6 µg/dL after 16 months.

Health officials have previously warned about the lead dangers of traditional pottery, including wares purchased in Ecuador, Mexico, Morocco, Turkey, the United States and Uzbekistan, according to the DOHMH.

The CDC concluded that the report “highlights the importance of testing blood lead levels of all household members when one member receives a diagnosis of an elevated blood lead level.”

And while the case study family was reluctant to work with investigators, the CDC urged local health departments to always “conduct a holistic risk assessment that examines multiple potential sources of lead exposure.”

Source: NY Post

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