I overheard this while wandering the aisles of a crowded import store, trying in vain to find a candle that did not smell like a truckload of gardenias:
CUSTOMER: Can you promise me these dishes don’t have lead in the glaze?
EARNEST YOUNG SALESPERSON: Yes, I can. But I’m not sure if that’s true.
Along with the commendable honesty, the exchange stayed in my mind for its nagging familiarity. This issue comes up regularly, usually in connection with some nifty pottery dishes. The ones in question that day were brightly painted, intended for kids.
The question of lead getting into us via our dishes is a made-for-TV news story, as always. (The Food Watchdog reported earlier this year about the lead levels in the aptly named Toxic Waste Nuclear Chew Bars.)
Recently, the info available–and its presentation–has been getting better. “Let’s Make All Kids Lead-Free Kids,” a cooperative website put together by the Advertising Council, the Environmental Protection Agency and a couple of other huddles of hardworking feds gets freshened when new worries about the old issue crop up, as it did this spring.
Two EPA brochures getting renewed play are well-designed and parent-friendly pdfs on the subject, one an overall household guide, the other a guide to food for kids that can help make them less vulnerable to lead poisoning.
As the brochure notes, keeping a kid’s stomach full with more frequent small meals and plenty of iron, vitamin C and calcium is a helpful preventative practice.
Absorption of lead is especially dangerous for kids. Even low levels of lead have been shown to contribute to lower IQ scores. Higher exposures and a child could develop anemia, muscle weakness and brain damage.
Here’s one last fact that I might be skeptical about if Time Magazine didn’t say it was published in the fairly credible journal of Environmental Health.
The peer-reviewed Chinese study cites that a theory that parents have always used to badger their children: Breakfast is good for you.
In the case of reducing absorption of lead into a child’s blood stream, it’s flat-out great.
The six-month study of more than 1,300 children showed that kids who regularly ate breakfast lowered their lead levels by 15 percent.