Report finds toxic levels of lead in spices that can be dangerous to kids

Lower IQ, behavioral problems, even memory loss – these are some of the things that can happen if your child is exposed to lead. The heavy metal has been known to show up in spices, toys and other unsuspecting sources.

“I would’ve never thought about this as a parent,” Nicklaus Good said.

Good is a father. He lives in Cape Coral with his wife, Kaylee, his daughter and son.

Damian Good throws a baseball with his dad. (WINK News photo)
Damian Good throws a baseball with his dad. (WINK News photo)

Damian, his son, was 3-years-old when his pediatrician said he had lead poisoning.

“We freaked out and did everything we thought we could do,” Good said.

CDC STUDY: Report on lead in spices, herbal remedies

They discovered the lead was likely coming from the batteries in the flashlights Damian liked to play with. He would put the flashlight in his mouth, and the lead would get in his bloodstream, leading his parents to get rid of the toys.

Now, his parents said they are glad Damian was tested for lead. But their pediatrician, Dr. Annette St. Pierre-Mackoul, said that is not the only way children are being exposed to lead.

“Hidden sources of lead is a big concern for a lot of children,” Pierre-Mackoul said.

One of those sources? Spices, herbal remedies and ceremonial powders. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tested samples from around the world and found these sources were making kids sick.

Dr. Nora Demers, a professor at Florida Gulf Coast University, studies these kinds of problems.

“For the herbs and spices, it may be that the ground where they grew had high concentrations of lead in it,” said Dr. Demers about where the lead comes from.

RESOURCE: What to know about lead poisoning, for parents

Those products get shipped to the United States from around the world. But these imports can be a problem. The spices in the CDC study were imports, such as turmeric, chili and paprika. The main country of origins were India Pakistan and the Republic of Georgia.

“You don’t have the FDA oversight to monitor and detect those compounds,” said Dr. Demers. The FDA, or Food and Drug Administration, is a government agency that protects public health.

Without the oversight, children can be at risk, such as developmental delays, abdominal pain and toxicity to the nervous system.

But some things can be done to limit exposure, according to the FGCU professor.

“You should look at the label and see where it was produced, where it was manufactured, where it was processed,” Dr. Demers said.

Since the CDC found in their study that spices made overseas had higher lead levels compared to those made in America, paying a premium on products may prevent exposure.

Even if you avoid the spices, doctors automatically test for lead early in life.

“We do it at 9 months, 18 months,” Pierre-Mackoul said. “In my office, I do it at 2-and-3-years-old as well.”

The age increments are chosen because lead can affect the development stages of a child’s life.

Treatment for mild exposure involved removing the source. There is medication available for more extreme cases.

Dr. Demers also says a whole-foods diet which includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, protein and dairy can make it more difficult for lead to be absorbed. She also says to make sure you get enough calcium, iron and vitamin C.

As for Damian, his parents said his tests are looking better. Eliminating the batteries seems to have minimized his exposure. But, it is an issue they will keep an eye on as they watch their family grow.

“You want the best for your kids,” Kaylee Good said. “You don’t want your kids sick.”

“If you don’t get ahead of it, then you’re behind it,” Nicklaus Good said.

Reporter:Channing Frampton
Writer:Michael Mora
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