Lead poisoning cases tied to traditional ceramic ware, NYC health officials warn


The New York City Health Department is warning residents against using traditional ceramic ware for cooking or serving food or drinks after the agency recorded more than a dozen cases of lead poisoning tied to clay pots and dishes. 

The department said in a press release Tuesday that it has investigated 15 cases of lead poisoning in children and adults in recent months who have used non-food-safe clay cups and other ceramic dishware. 

The cases from recent months have included individuals with elevated blood lead levels as high as 53 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL).The health department said blood levels greater than 5 µg/dL are a sign of significant exposure. 

New York City Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi told city residents Tuesday, “Do not use decorative ceramics or those not intended for food use when preparing or serving meals.” 

The health agency noted that exposure to high levels of lead could lead to serious health conditions, including learning and behavior problems among children, as well as elevated blood pressure and impacts to the brain, kidneys and reproductive organs among adults. 

Individuals who are pregnant and exposed to high amounts of lead are at greater risk of miscarriage, the department said. 

According to the department, ceramic ware made in countries including Mexico, Ecuador and Turkey may have decorative paint or glazing that contain high levels of lead. 

“No amount of washing, boiling, or other process can remove lead from the ceramic ware,” the agency noted. 

The department said that a blood test is the only way to determine if someone has an elevated blood lead level, with any New Yorkers “who are currently using traditional ceramic ware to prepare, cook, serve, or store food” now advised to request a lead test from their medical provider. 

The warning from health officials comes as the city is carrying out its ongoing LeadFreeNYC plan first announced by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) in January 2019 to “prevent exposure to lead hazards in the first place and respond quickly and comprehensively if a New Yorker has an elevated blood lead level.” 

According to the LeadFreeNYC website, lead can also be found in several other areas of a person’s home and in retail products, potentially putting residents at risk for unsafe levels of exposure. 

Lead-based paint, which was banned in the city in 1960, continues to remain the most common cause of childhood lead exposure in the city. More than half of the city’s residential buildings were constructed and painted before the ban.  

Toxic lead can also be found in some jewelry and toys, as well as certain cosmetic products, according to city health officials.

Tags Bill de Blasio Blood lead level Health department Lead Lead poisoning New York New York City Pottery
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