I like my food unleaded.
I was quite surprised to discover that not everything in my pantry was lead free. Thanks to a tip from a friend, I discovered some hidden lead in my Balsamic Vinegar purchased at Costco.
The Kirkland Signature brand Balsamic Vinegar of Modena has a nifty little warning label at the bottom which states:
WARNING: This product contains lead, a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects and other reproductive harm.
As a serious label reader I was surprised that I had missed this. What an alarming find!
Lead is a common, naturally occurring metal and most of us are exposed to low levels of it all of the time. However, lead is toxic to humans and children are especially susceptible. Regulations have reduced the amount of lead that we are exposed to, we no longer have lead paint, the glaze on our dishes once contained lead and for the most part they do not. Yet we still are exposed to lead in our water supply, in our environment from soil and dust…and in our foods, mostly through contamination with utensils, cans and vessles containing lead and water during production and packaging. [ref]http://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/lead/sources.htm[/ref]
“Ongoing exposure to even small amounts of lead may eventually result in harmful levels in the body. Once lead is absorbed into your blood, it is either eliminated from your body (mostly in urine) or builds up in your bones. It can remain stored in your body for over 30 years.
Health effects associated with exposure to high levels of lead include vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, coma or even death.” [ref]http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/iyh-vsv/environ/lead-plomb-eng.php[/ref]
Of course, high levels of exposure resulting in major complications are fairly rare, yet even low levels of lead exposure can cause health problems including blood pressure increase, neurological impacts including decline in intellect and cognitive ability, heart problems, strokes and risk of miscarriage and other reproductive harm. [ref]http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/pubs/contaminants/dhhssrl-rpecscepsh/index-eng.php[/ref]
If lead is lurking in a regular bottle of vinegar that anyone can pick up at a reputable, nation-wide chain, it certainly makes you wonder what other products may contain lead. The answer surprised me… it is not just in cheap products from China.
According the the Environmental Law Foundation, who filed suit in September of 2011 based on findings of lead in this study, says that it is in hundreds of products that you might buy regularly contain lead and many do not currently require labeling.
List of products found in study that contained lead includes:
Even Organic Juices and fruits
From Brands that many people may trust, including:
Full Circle Organic
and many, many more.
For the full list of products indicated go here
More foods that commonly contain lead
Tap Water – Get a water filtration system, even the most cost effective water filters can remove the majority of lead from the water
Leafy green vegetables – Through soil contamination, be sure to soak your leaf greens thoroughly before eating
Imported Candy – Primarily from Mexico [ref]http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/03/california-recall-for-candies-with-too-much-lead/#.USPxIaVOMqk[/ref]
Imported Dried Fruit – Especially Plums
Imported Herbs and Supplements – Especially from China and India [ref]http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/lead/lead-fact-sheet.pdf[/ref]
Imported Spices – Especially India or China [ref]http://abcnews.go.com/Health/indian-spice-religious-powders-lead-poisoning-children-study/story?id=10099654[/ref] [ref]http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/11/imported-dried-fruits-recalled-for-high-lead-levels/#.USPxAaVOMqk[/ref]
Lipstick – Although not above legal limits, according to this article 400 shades of lipstick contain high levels of lead [ref]http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-checkup/post/lead-in-lipsticks-which-brands-are-the-worst-offenders/2012/02/14/gIQAfNkiDR_blog.html[/ref]
The moral of the story is that we need to read the labels very thoroughly. In some cases, reading labels is not enough, as many food products still do not have adequate labeling. Prop 65, The Right to Know Law requires labeling of toxic chemicals and a current suit is requesting that more products be required to label their lead content. This goes to show us just how important these labeling laws are to our health. We need to be sure that we add our voices with our votes on labeling laws in our own states. My state is considering a label requirement on GMO foods. You can bet that I will be adding my vote in on this issue.