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Article  Lead keeps showing up where it’s not supposed to be

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INTRO: In 2024, one of the most potent neurotoxins known to humanity persists all over the world as a public health threat. For the second time in six months, lead contamination in food products has put public health authorities on high alert in the wealthiest nation in the world. Last fall, contaminated cinnamon-applesauce pouches caused dozens of lead poisoning cases across the US, eventually prompting recalls in November. And in March, the federal government announced that some ground cinnamon products also contained slightly elevated levels of lead and advised customers not to buy them.

Lead might seem like something we left behind in a past era. By the 1990s, nearly every country had eliminated leaded gasoline, once easily the most ubiquitous source of lead pollution when we spewed it into the open air. The US and Europe also instituted more stringent rules for another common source of exposure, lead paint, by greatly restricting or outright banning its use. You can see the improvements in the numbers: From 1978 to 1991, the average level of lead in the blood for Americans younger than 75 dropped by 78 percent.

But lead usage has actually been on the rise worldwide, even in the US. The proliferation of lead-acid batteries globally and less stringent rules in the developing world for everything from cookware to spices has allowed lead consumption to grow despite its known health risks.

Lead is linked to a wide range of neurological and development problems, and exposure is especially dangerous for children. Research has found kids with elevated levels of lead in their blood experience a range of effects, from speech and hearing problems to learning and behavioral issues. They develop more slowly, physically and mentally... (MORE - details)

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