Every member of an NYC family of five found to have lead poisoning because of Mexican ceramic ware

NYC family find out their Mexican ceramic dishes had dangerous levels of LEAD on them after youngest child had high levels of chemical in their blood

  • After a three year old child in an NYC family of five was found to have high levels of lead in his blood, the CDC launched an investigation
  • They found that the child’s two older siblings – and later their parents – all also had dangerous lead levels
  • Investigators found that dishes the family used that they purchased in Mexico were responsible
  • After the family replaced the dishes their lead levels quickly receded in only around a year 

A New York City family of five was found to be suffering from lead poisoning, and their dishes may have been the root cause, a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention investigation found.

The case was opened after a three year old child was found to have dangerously high lead levels in their blood, leading to further investigation which found all five members were suffering from increase lead levels in their blood.

While the family did not totally cooperate with a CDC investigation into the matter, the agency believes that ceramic dishes they had purchased in Mexico were the root cause.

The agency warns that many items purchased abroad may not meet U.S. standards for protection against lead, and could leave people vulnerable to lead poisoning.

After first discovering that a three year old family member was suffering from increased blood lead levels, CDC investigators tested the rest of the family and found they all had dangerous high levels of lead exposure. After replacing ceramic dishes that were believed to be the cause, the family’s levels returned to normal

In 2017, routine screening found that the three year old had a blood lead level of seven micrograms per deciliter (ug/dl), surpassing the acceptable CDC amount of five ug/dl, though not reaching the ten ug/dl mark needed to launch a home investigation.

A year later in 2018, after the child’s family was sent information on avoiding lead exposure in the home, the three year old was tested once again and was found to have a five ug/dl blood lead level.

In 2020, another screening was performed, as recommended by a family doctor. This time, the family’s two adult children were given blood tests as well to search for lead.

They found that the three year old’s blood lead level was still at five ug/dl, but the two adult siblings had 17 and 53 ug/dl – well above acceptable limits.

This spurred the parents to get screened as well, and the mother and father were discovered to have 17 and 53 ug/dl respectively – also blowing past acceptable levels.

Follow up risk assessment performed by CDC investigators found that the family was using ceramic dished purchased in Mexico for cooking, storage and for making coffee.

While the family declined to let investigators to investigate their home, the CDC team was able to scan their dishes for lead, and detected 15.7 milligrams per centimeter – a dangerously high level.

‘Traditional ceramic ware from around the world has been found to contain lead at levels thousands of times higher than regulatory limits in the United States,’ researchers wrote. 

‘The lead used for aesthetic and other purposes on the ceramic ware’s glaze or paint can transfer to foods or drinks that are prepared, served, or stored in these products, placing users at risk for lead exposure.’

Ceramic dishes can often contain dangerous levels of lead

Ceramic dishes can often contain dangerous levels of lead

The agency warns that ceramic dishes purchased in Ecuador, Mexico, Morocco, Turkey and Uzbekistan 

While lead levels are heavily regulated in the U.S., it is likely that some dishes being sold in the country still are using dangerous levels of lead.

The family also reported that they used foreign spices in their cooking that could be responsible, though they declined to provide a sample to CDC investigators. The family’s husband also works in construction, another potential risk factor for lead exposure. 

After replacing the dishes, the family was screened every few months for lead exposure. 

Two months after replacement, the families blood lead level ranges had fallen to two to 21 ug/dl. Just over a year later, it fell to one to six ug/dl, almost entirely safe levels, showing that potential damage is not un-reversible.

Lead poisoning can slowly destroy a person’s nervous system, leading to cognitive and memory issues – and can even eventually lead to an early death if not managed. 

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