By now, most of us have heard about the lead poisoning outbreak affecting hundreds of children nationwide. Now, authorities are suggesting that the contamination that led to the outbreak may have been intentional. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are actively investigating a company in Ecuador where cinnamon is processed and distributed.
While the investigation is ongoing, consumers are left in fear for their children’s safety and wellbeing. At Kherkher Garcia, we understand these fears, and we want you to know that you are not alone. Our children’s product liability lawyers are here if you have questions or concerns about a product recall or safety alert.
Below, we provide an overview of the lead poisoning outbreak, along with information for parents about lead poisoning and how to get help.
Lead Poisoning Outbreak Information
In October 2023, WanaBana recalled all of their apple cinnamon fruit puree pouches due to elevated lead levels. Soon after, Schnucks and Weis brands also recalled specific cinnamon-flavored applesauce pouches and variety packs. Authorities have received more than 200 complaints across 33 states, primarily in children under age six. When Kherkher Garcia first wrote about the outbreak in November, there were only 22 reports.
Some reports have indicated that children have lead levels more than 200 times higher than proposed safety standards. The source of the lead is believed to be the cinnamon used in the product, imported from Ecuador. The FDA is facing challenges investigating the facility in Ecuador due to limited jurisdiction, however, the investigation is ongoing.
In the meantime, the FDA and CDC are urging parents to be aware and avoid products that are subject to the recall. Parents can identify the recalled products by the following:
- WanaBana Apple Cinnamon Fruit Puree in 3-pack pouches of 2.5 oz
- Schnucks Apple Sauce 90g pouches with cinnamon. The affected lots are 05023:19, 09023:22 and 09023:24
- Weis Cinnamon Apple Sauce 90g, affected lot number 05023:28
These products were distributed nationwide in retail stores and online, including popular retailers like Amazon and Dollar Tree.
Understanding Lead Poisoning
Lead poisoning is a serious health concern, particularly for children, as it can have long-term detrimental effects on their development. Exposure to lead, a toxic metal, can occur through various sources in the environment, such as lead-based paints, contaminated soil, water, and certain consumer products.
Below, let’s take a closer look at the specifics of lead poisoning in children, including the symptoms, treatment options, and associated risks.
Causes of Lead Poisoning
Children are at a heightened risk of lead poisoning due to their smaller size, rapid growth, and tendency to explore their surroundings by putting objects in their mouths. Lead exposure commonly occurs through ingesting lead-containing dust, paint chips, or contaminated water, especially in older homes with lead-based paint or pipes.
However, as noted above, lead can be present in consumer products. U.S. safety organizations have standards for the amount of lead that is acceptable in consumer products. In cases like the recalled applesauce, lead levels far exceeded what safety experts consider to be safe.
Symptoms of Lead Poisoning
Lead poisoning can manifest in various ways, and symptoms may not always be immediately evident. Common signs include:
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Learning difficulties
- Behavioral problems
In severe cases, lead poisoning can lead to seizures, developmental delays, hearing loss, and even coma.
Health Risks Associated with Lead Exposure
The effects of lead poisoning on children’s health are multifaceted and far-reaching. High levels of lead in the body can impact brain development, resulting in:
- Learning disabilities
- Lower IQ levels
- Attention deficit issues
- Behavioral disorders
Furthermore, it can affect the kidneys, nervous system, and cause anemia. These long-term health risks are even more alarming in the case of the ongoing lead poisoning outbreak as these cases are primarily among young children who are still developing.
Diagnosis and Testing
A blood test is the primary method to determine lead levels in a child’s body. The CDC recommends routine screening for lead poisoning in young children, especially those 1-2 years old, as they are more susceptible to its effects. In older children and adults, blood tests are still the first line diagnostic, including:
- Blood Lead Level Test: This is the definitive test for lead poisoning. A sample of blood is taken and analyzed for the amount of lead present. There is no safe level of lead in blood, but levels above 5 mcg/dL in children are considered concerning.
- Other Blood Tests: Complete blood count may be done to check for anemia, and certain enzymes may be measured to assess potential liver or kidney damage from lead.
In some cases, other tests like X-rays, bone scans, or urine tests may be used to assess the extent of lead exposure and potential damage to bones or kidneys.
Prevention remains the most effective approach to combat lead poisoning. However, if a child is diagnosed with elevated lead levels, immediate action is necessary. Treatment may involve first removing the source of lead exposure, such as identifying and mitigating lead hazards in the home. Depending on age, exposure, and symptoms, treating lead poisoning may consist of the following:
Mild Lead Poisoning:
- Chelation Therapy: This involves using medications to bind with lead in the blood and help the body remove it through urine. This is typically done for moderate lead levels or if early intervention is desired.
- Diet and Nutrition: Ensuring a balanced diet rich in calcium, iron, and vitamin C can help reduce lead absorption and support the body’s natural detoxification processes.
- Supportive Care: Addressing any symptoms like abdominal pain, nausea, or constipation with appropriate medication or dietary adjustments.
Moderate to Severe Lead Poisoning:
- Intravenous Chelation Therapy: This more intensive approach may be necessary for higher lead levels or if the child has neurological symptoms.
- Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: This can increase the amount of oxygen in the blood, which can help reduce brain swelling and improve neurological function.
- Supportive Care and Monitoring: Close medical supervision is crucial to manage symptoms, prevent complications, and assess progress.
- Regular Blood Lead Level Monitoring: This is essential to ensure lead levels remain low and prevent further exposure.
- Developmental and Educational Support: Lead poisoning can affect cognitive development and learning. Early intervention and ongoing support can help minimize these impacts.
- Nutritional Guidance: Continuing to focus on a healthy diet rich in essential nutrients can support the child’s recovery and overall health.
Early diagnosis and prompt treatment are crucial to minimize the potential long-term effects of lead poisoning. Consulting a healthcare professional specializing in pediatric environmental health is highly recommended for managing lead exposure in children.
To prevent lead poisoning, measures should be taken to minimize exposure, such as:
- Regular Testing: Ensure routine lead screenings for young children.
- Hygiene Practices: Encourage frequent handwashing and discourage hand-to-mouth behaviors.
- Nutritious Diet: Provide a diet rich in iron, calcium, and vitamin C, which can help reduce lead absorption.
- Lead-Safe Environment: Regularly check and maintain homes, ensuring they are lead-free and adequately painted.
- Water Safety: Use lead-free pipes and fixtures and run tap water for a few minutes before using it for drinking or cooking.
Public Health Measures
Government agencies play a crucial role in enforcing regulations and policies to prevent lead exposure. This includes strict standards for lead in consumer products, monitoring water supplies, and enforcing safe practices in industries that use lead.
Have Questions about the Lead Poisoning Outbreak?
The ongoing lead poisoning outbreak is a significant public health concern with potentially severe consequences. If your child has been diagnosed with lead poisoning and you have questions about their legal rights, contact Kherkher Garcia today. We can help you explore your situation and understand your legal rights. If you have an actionable claim against a manufacturer or other party, we will help you pursue justice and compensation for the harm your child is suffering.
To get answers and learn more, contact our children’s product liability lawyers by calling 713-333-1030, or by completing our contact form. At Kherkher Garcia, your child’s safety, wellbeing, and rights are our priority.