TitleContaminated turmeric is a potential source of lead exposure for children in rural Bangladesh
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsQuamruzzaman, Q, Rahman, M, Bellinger, C, Christiani, C, Wright, RO, Mazumdar, M, Kile, ML, Gleason, K, Shine, J, Shobnam, N, Rokoff, L, Suchanda, HSultana
JournalJournal of Environmental and Public Health
Date Published08/2014
Type of ArticleResearch Article

Background: During the conduct of a population-based cohort study intended to study the associations between mixed metal exposures and child health outcomes, we found that 78% of 309 children aged 20-40 months evaluated in the Munshiganj District of Bangladesh had blood lead concentrations ≥ 5 μg/dL, and 27% had concentrations ≥ 10 μg/dL. This unexpected finding has emphasized how little is known about lead poisoning in children living in rural settings in Bangladesh or sources of childhood lead exposure in Bangladesh other than air pollution, as well as the importance of identifying and eliminating these sources. Hypothesis: Environmental sources such as spices (e.g. turmeric, which has already faced recalls in Bangladesh due to high lead levels) may be a potential route of lead exposure. Methods: After discovering the high blood lead concentrations in our Munshiganj cohort, we conducted visits to the homes of a sample of 28 children randomly selected from among high- and low-blood lead concentration groups. During the visits, we administered a structured questionnaire and obtained soil, dust, rice, and spice samples. We obtained water samples from community water sources, as well as environmental samples from parental workplaces and neighborhood businesses. Results: Lead concentrations in many turmeric samples were elevated, with lead concentrations as high as 483 ppm. Analyses showed high bioaccessibility of lead. Conclusions: Childhood lead poisoning is a public health concern in rural communities in Bangladesh. Contamination of turmeric powder is a potentially important source of lead exposure in this population.