The American Academy of Pediatrics reports the result of a recent study show that one quarter of imported food spices and products surveyed contained detectable amounts of lead.
On average, imported spices contained double the amount of lead than was found in U.S. brands.
The researchers found four cases of children in the Boston area with elevated blood lead levels who were exposed to imported Indian spices and/or cultural powders. After treatment, and the discontinued use of the spices and/or powders, all of the children had improved blood lead levels.
Additional investigation of Boston-area stores that sell Indian spices and cultural powders also revealed some lead-contaminated items.
Some powders that were previously banned or recalled by the FDA were still for sale, and contained over 50 percent lead by weight.
The AAP recommends that families traveling abroad should be aware of the potential health risks associated with the purchase and use of spices that have not been tested.
Repeated exposure to lead at high levels can cause cognitive damage in children. In most cases, lead exposure can be treated if the source of the exposure is discovered. Special diets, and in severe cases, treatment with drugs may be necessary.
Early symptoms of lead poisoning, according to the AAP, include headaches, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, constipation, and/or decreased activity.
The authors of the study suggest that further testing is necessary in order to protect children.