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Heavy Metals In Our Food: Understanding Risks and Moving Towards Solutions

To mark Earth Day 2023, experts from Pure Earth, Consumer Reports, NYC Department of Health and more took part in a special roundtable discussion and Q&A.

Watch the recording now to find out what is being done in the U.S. and around the world to stop heavy metals from coming into our kitchens, what levels of risk different contaminated products pose, and what you can do to protect your family.

Earth Day Dialogue moderator:

Leslie Norton, Editorial Director, Sustainability, Morningstar

Roundtable panelists included:

Drew McCartor, Executive Director, Pure Earth

Dr. James Rogers, Director of Food Safety Research and Testing, Consumer Reports

Dr. Paromita Hore, Director, Environmental Exposure Assessment and Education, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Dr. Stephan Boese-O’Reilly, Senior Technical Director, Pure Earth, Pediatrician and Professor of Environmental and Public Health at the University Hospital, LMU Munich, Germany

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In 2019, Pure Earth raised the alarm about pollution reaching kitchens all over the world through the global food supply chain with the release of the report Pollution Knows No Borders. Consumer Reports have also released results of tests of spices, baby food, chocolates, tuna, and other consumer products that throw more light on the extent of the contamination problem.

Just last month in March 2023, Debbie Dingell, U.S. Representative Congresswoman from Michigan’s 6th Congressional District, commented on a positive step in the right direction during our International Women’s Day Force of Nature celebration:

“Congress specifically appropriated $6 million for USAID to address widespread lead pollution in low- and middle-income countries before it ends up in our products and in our kitchens, and in homes around the world. The sustainable solution is to stop pollution and the contamination of products at the source. These appropriations are a start. A good start. But only a start.”

Rep. Dingell is right. This is a good start. But so much more needs to be done.

As Pure Earth continues to advise and advocate for action from U.S. regulators to protect the food supply chain, we are working on other solutions.

Currently, Pure Earth is conducting a wide-reaching global study to identify lead-containing products sold in markets in 25 countries around the world. This project is giving our experts important data about how pollution enters the supply chain.  Even before the launch of this Rapid Market Screening project, our understanding of the way pollution travels had already helped to identify and stop the flow of contaminated spices in the Republic of Georgia. where over 40% of the children were being poisoned at every meal.

Join us to learn about all this, and bring your questions and concerns to our expert panel. The Earth Day Dialogue and Q&A will answer these questions and more:

  • What are the trends being revealed from our survey of consumer products in 25 countries? With thousands of products purchased and tested, learn what items most commonly contain lead, and why.
  • How are recent lead poisoning cases in NYC connected to what is happening globally? What similar trends are we seeing in other major U.S. cities?
  • What are the risks of consuming heavy metals in baby food, chocolates, spices and other products? How much is too much?


Pure Earth

New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Consumer Reports

Clean Label Project

• Best and worst baby products
• Lead: It’s Impact on Health and the Environment, Coming Clean Project Podcast

Center for Global Development

• There’s lead in your turmeric – The Weeds podcast – Vox’s Matthew Yglesias talks to Rachel Silverman from the Center for Global Development about the global perspective and lead poisoning as the next big global health issue to focus on.

Global Alliance on Health and Pollution

The Need for a Global Science Policy Interface on Pollution