A Comparison of the Prevalence of Lead-Contaminated Imported Chinese Ceramic Dinnerware Purchased Inside Versus Outside Philadelphia's Chinatown
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Lead-contaminated ceramics can be a clinically significant source of lead poisoning, with the potential to cause illness in children and adults; one death in a child has been described. We hypothesized that the prevalence of lead-contaminated ceramics would be higher within Chinatown versus outside of Chinatown. The study was a prospective observational cross-sectional study. Two areas were defined geographically as being within and outside of Philadelphia's Chinatown, and a predefined number of items were purchased in each area. Each item was screened for lead utilizing a colorimetric testing swab. Positive items were leached for lead using the ASTM C738-94 protocol for lead level quantification. The primary outcome was the prevalence of ceramics not compliant with the FDA standard for leachable lead within and outside of Philadelphia's Chinatown. A total of 132 items were purchased, 46 outside of and 86 within Chinatown. More lead-positive items originated within Chinatown than outside of Chinatown [five positive items, 5.8 % prevalence within Chinatown (95 % confidence interval, CI, 2.5–12.9 %), and zero positive, 0 % prevalence outside of Chinatown (95 % CI 0–7.5 %)]. However, this difference was not found to be statistically significant (P = 0.1624). The leachable lead-positive items were up to 40-fold the acceptable FDA levels. Testing a larger number of items may demonstrate a significant source of lead exposure.
KeywordsLead Ceramics Lead poisoning Environmental exposure/analysis Food contamination/analysis
The authors would like to gratefully acknowledge Xin Ma, M.D. (Thomas Jefferson University Hospital), Jason Matthew Fields, M.D. (Thomas Jefferson University Hospital), the University of Pennsylvania Department of Earth and Environmental Science, and the following medical students: Courtney Sirak, Alexander Neusner, Mike Minckler, Thomas Smith, Jeffery Mufson, and Kristen Weiss, for their invaluable assistance in the publication of this paper.
Conflict of interest
The authors report no declarations of interest. The authors alone are responsible for the content and writing of this paper. Each of the authors had access to and agrees to the manuscript as written.
Funding was from the department of emergency medicine at Thomas Jefferson. The abstract accepted at SAEM made acknowledgements that Hybrivent systems donated some swabs to us. This is due to the fact that we reanalyzed all of the ceramics with swabs (that hybrivent donated) after sanding them. This data was presented at SAEM, however none of this data is presented in this paper. The initial screening swabs were purchased by Dr. O'malley at a hardware store and reimbursed by the department of emergency medicine.
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