Lead is one of the most dangerous environmental contaminants. In fact, in 1991, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services called lead the “number one environmental threat to the health of children in the United States.” Individuals can become exposed to lead in a number of ways – through the air, drinking water, contaminated soil, dust, paint, and even food. Yes, that’s right: Your food could contain lead.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, lead exposure can affect the brain, central nervous system, blood cells, and kidneys. At high levels, lead can cause convulsions, coma, and even death. Fetuses, infants and children are particularly susceptible to lead exposure because lead is more easily absorbed into their growing bodies. Accordingly, when fetuses and children are exposed to lead, the consequences are particularly detrimental and can include physical development delays, mental development delays, lower IQ levels, shortened attention span, and increased behavioral problems.
Knowing the risks associated with lead exposures makes it all the more alarming to learn that lead may be in the food that we eat. According to the BBC, an analysis of commercially available rice imported into the U.S. showed levels of lead much higher than levels that regulations suggest are safe.
During the analysis, a team of researchers led by Dr. Tsanangurayi Tongesayi of Monmouth University in New Jersey tested a number of imported brands of rice from Bhutan, Italy, China, Taiwan, India, Israel, the Czech Republic and Thailand –which account for 65% of U.S. rice imports. (The U.S. currently imports about 7% of its rice.)
The researchers measured lead levels in rice from each country and then calculated the lead intake on the basis of daily consumption. Their results showed that some of the samples had a “provisional total tolerable intake” (PTTI) much higher than the PTTI set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Dr. Tongesayi told BBC News that “[a]ccording to the FDA, [samples] have to be more than 10 times the PTTI levels (to cause a health concern), and our values were two to 12 times higher than those 10 times.”
Given that we live within a global food market, with many of our foods imported from other countries, it is important that consumers pay attention to what they are eating and where their food is coming from so that they can keep abreast of any potential safety concerns.
The Chicago toxic tort attorneys at Ankin Law Office, LLC are committed to protecting the public from unsafe environmental contaminants, such as lead. If you have suffered injuries or damages as a result of an environmental contaminant such as lead, you may also wish to consult with an attorney about a possible toxic tort or product liability lawsuit.
Contact one of our skilled Chicago toxic tort lawyers at (312) 600-0000 if you would like more information about the dangers of lead exposure.