Poison could be lurking in your kitchen where you least expect it. "I didn't think my dishes could hurt my kids. It's not supposed to happen," said Amy Gourtney, mother of two small children.
She was alarmed to hear that the plates and glasses she uses to feed her kids could be contaminated with lead. According to the Texas Department of Health, lead poisoning is a major environmental health problem and kids are more at risk.
Pediatrician Dr. Donna Bacchi, also Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the Texas Tech University Health Science Center, says if a child ingests even the lowest levels of lead, it could affect the way their brain works. "At low levels, it can start affecting their memory, their attention and concentration. Children who are young may not be learning as well as he or she could," Dr. Bacchi said.
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Spotting the Symptoms of Lead Poisoning
And that's exactly why the government took the lead out of gasoline and indoor paint more than a decade ago. But NewsChannel 11 has discovered lead can still be found on household dishes in Lubbock.
Our month long investigation took us to several stores in town, like Mervyns, JC Pennys, Walmart, Big Lots, Savers Thrift Store and Target. By using a special swab called Leadcheck, we found more than a dozen dishes contaminated with lead. The swab turns pink if lead is present.
Dishes like a children's Dairy Queen glass, a Tweety Bird cereal bowl, a Tazmanian coffee mug, plates and wine goblets all tested positive with our swab.
"Those glasses shouldn't be anywhere near kids," said Dr. Mike Hooper, Environmental Toxicologist at the TTUHSC. Dr. Hooper says acid-based food and drinks can pull the lead off plates and glasses and poison the food.
We took our dishes to Dr. Hooper where he double checked our findings. He went to extremes by grinding up the dishes and extracting the lead using the strongest acid. He found that eight of the 12 dishes were contaminated with lead.
However, the wine goblet, fruit pint glass, and another hand-painted glass tested with the highest levels: 3/4 of a gram of lead. To you and me, that doesn't seem much. But to Dr. Hooper, that's of great concern. "When we're talking about 3/4 of a gram of lead, we're talking about 750,000 micrograms or many times the amount of lead that can affect kids," he said.
"When they get older, it can affect their ability to learn in school," says Dr. Bacchi.
Dr. Hooper says the DQ glass had traceable amounts of lead and over time could chip and wind up all over your child's hand.
We were surprised to learn the Tweety Bird bowl and Taz mug was not a threat, since they originally tested positive with our swipe. "The ones with the cartoon characters seem to be fixed more into the glaze or fixed more into the pottery. They are not as readily available with lead like the glasses," said Dr. Hooper.
How about the plates? During our examination, we discovered a warning label on the bottom of the apple plate. The state of California requires manufacturers to place warning labels if a dish is contaminated with lead. The apple plate was the only one with lead.
"It's scary. If it's going to affect my child, it's something I don't want," said Amy. She says she will be more careful.
You should avoid buying glasses where you can feel the paint on the outside. Another suggestion is to buy the Leadcheck swabs. You squeeze the tube and it releases an orange chemical. You rub it over the dish or glass and it will turn pink if it detects lead.
If you want to buy them, click ( www.leadcheck.com).
Also a reminder, always wash your brand new dishes because dust also contains lead.
We must tell you that the stores are not breaking any law because there is no law against selling lead dishes. But, NewsChannel 11 has put a call into our state representatives to ask why. We will have that story at a later date.
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