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.
- Accepted February 4, 2005.
- Copyright © 2005 by the American Academy of Pediatrics