Question - A recent report implicates household cooking spices as a potential source for lead exposure to some children in North Carolina. How might lead contaminate cooking spices?
Answer - The cited reference reports “Lead can contaminate spices during many points in the global supply chain. Spices are often grown in countries polluted by leaded gasoline, smelters, battery manufacturing plants, and mines. Lead is deposited in soil and water from airborne pollutants and fertilizer application. Lead dust from grinding machinery can also contaminate spices. Spices might also be adulterated deliberately with lead to enhance color or increase weight. Because >95% of spices consumed in the United States are imported, recommendations to purchase only locally grown spices are impractical.” (Angelon-Gaetz KA et al. Lead in spices, herbal remedies and ceremonial powders sampled from home investigations for children with elevated blood lead levels-North Carolina, 2011-2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018; 67:1290-1294. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6746a2).