About Pure Earth Mexico
Widespread low-level lead poisoning is one of Mexico’s most critical yet unknown public health concerns. Lead in traditional pottery glaze mixes with acidic foods–like coffee, chili peppers, tomatoes and lemons–-and quickly enters bodies’ digestive systems and bloodstreams.
What is the true scope of lead poisoning in Mexico? Pure Earth has been working with researchers in Mexico, including Dr. Martha María Téllez Rojo, a lead expert with INSP, for over a decade to call attention to the health impacts from lead-glazed pottery. For the first time, we have a clearer picture from a health survey conducted by the National Institute of Public Health (INSP) in Mexico, “National report of blood lead levels and use of glazed mud in vulnerable children.”
The results reveal that at least one million children between one and four years of age (representing 22% of the study population) have elevated blood lead levels above 5 μg/dL (Note: while there is no safe level of lead, the CDC recommends health intervention at levels of 5 μg/dL and above).
“It is important to realize that this figure will rise because this result covers ONLY children living in towns with less than 100,000 inhabitants. When data from other areas of the country are analyzed, the number of children confirmed with elevated blood lead levels will most certainly go beyond the one million mark,” says Daniel Estrada, head of Pure Earth Mexico and one of the co-authors of the report. Our estimates based on extrapolation from our site assessments and including children under 14, is 13 million with elevated blood lead levels.
Up to 20% of Mexicans are poisoned by the pottery they use for daily meals at home and in restaurants across the country. Lead in traditional pottery glaze mixes with acidic foods–like coffee, chili peppers, tomatoes, and lemons–and quickly enters bodies’ digestive systems and bloodstreams.
Since 2008, Pure Earth has been working with local authorities in Mexico to address the issue of lead in pottery. Pure Earth’s Barro Aprobado project is working to raise awareness about the dangers of leaded pottery, and to promote the use and production of lead-free pottery.
The World Organization Health considers lead to be one of the most dangerous known chemicals to human health and acknowledges that no blood lead level is safe.
In Mexico, lead is still present in a wide array of everyday items, such as imported cosmetics, commercial candies, certain household paints, and car and electronic batteries, among others. Active and abandoned mines, metallurgy, and the lead-acid battery recycling industry are also major sources of lead-acid exposure. However, lead-oxide glaze that is traditionally used in pottery has been identified as the main cause of chronic poisoning nationwide.
Fortunately, there are solutions to this challenge. Eliminating sources of lead exposure is not only feasible but also affordable. Moreover, it can generate economic benefits. The WHO confirms that: “The economic benefits of successful interventions against lead poisoning have also proven to be enormous. These benefits far outweigh the costs of creating a national screening program, surveillance, and primary prevention of lead poisoning.”
Since this challenge is primarily linked with the pottery sector, specific interventions that facilitate artisans’ transition to lead-free glazes, while at the same time monitor the blood lead levels of children, will produce significant benefits for both the public health and the economic growth of Mexico.
Read the full report (in Spanish) here.
Watch the video of the report briefing here.
LANCET COMMISSION ON POLLUTION AND HEALTH- MEXICO SUMMARY
Pollution is responsible for 7.6% of deaths in Mexico. Learn more about how pollution affects health and the economy in Mexico by reading the Mexico Summary Report, based on the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health.
Barro Aprobado will continue to drive a multi-sectoral strategy to control lead exposure caused by leaded pottery with the participation of lead experts and officials across various government agencies, including health, labor, tourism and economic sectors. They seek to ignite a national culture of lead-free pottery use.
- TSIP Training in Mexico City (2012)
LIBRES DE PLOMO
On January 28, 2022, Azteca Noticias, one of Mexico’s largest news programs, reported on Pure Earth’s work in Mexico as part of a special assignment. The report focused on artisans from Puebla who, with Pure Earth’s help, are keeping traditional pottery alive and lead free. Watch the video now.
NOTE: This video is in Spanish. To watch in English, click Settings (gear icon), Select “Subtitles” and then “Auto-translate” – scroll down to choose English.
Read more about our work in Mexico:
From Mexico to Brazil: Sharing Solutions to a Pollution Problem (2018)
(Photo Essay) Mexico: Lead Exposure From Traditional Pottery (Dec. 2015)
960 Pieces of Lead-Free Pottery (2015)
Alerting Local Researchers to Mexico’s National Lead Problem (2015)
A Tale of Three Cleanups (2015)
Want Lead-Free Food? Visit the first “Barro Aprobado” Restaurant in Mexico (2014)
Fact Sheet: Mexico’s 500 Year-Old Problem (2014)
Partners and Donors
With the support of the European Commission and HSBC, Pure Earth launched its Lead and Health Initiative in Mexico in three states. The multi-faceted strategy includes community education on health dangers and economic benefits of safer practices; training potters in using lead-free glaze, marketing and workplace remediation; building demand for lead-free pottery by engaging the hospitality industry; and enforcement of complementary regulations.
- Clarios Foundation
- Fondo Canadá
- Meridian Bioscience
- CANIRAC Zona Norte de la Ciudad de México– (National Restaurant Association)
- Consejo de Salubridad General
- Pacto por la Primera Infancia
- Universidad Autónoma de Morelos
Barrio con Barro
October 24-30th, 2021
Stay up to date with our work:
- Novena Semana Internacional de Prevención por Envenenamiento por Plomo Pure Earth en México hace un llamado a las empresas, Nuevo México Plurar, Octubre 31, 2021
- En México, 13 millones de niños con alto nivel de plomo por utensilios de cocina, La Jornada, Octubre 27, 2021
- Alertan por niveles de plomo en niños en Tamaulipas, El Sol Tampico, Octubre 26, 2021
Promueve Pure Earth México Sello Barro Aprobado en Talleres, Restaurantes, y Puntos de Venta, vickyhernandex.com, Octubre 23, 2021
- INTOXICADA por PLOMO en SANGRE, 17% de la POBLACIÓN INFANTIL en MÉXICO, Punto por Punto, Octubre 20, 2021
- Barro Aprobado, una iniciativa por la alfarería libre de plomo, Food & Travel Mexico, Septiembre 24, 2021
- Pure Earth México presenta su proyecto Barrio con Barro, Todotextcoco.com, Julio 27, 2021
- They seek to ignite a national culture of pottery use, Diario de Mexico, July 22, 2021
- The pollutant that persists in cities more than 20 years after its ban (and its devastating impact on children), BBC News World, July 19, 2021
- ¡Por fin hay barro libre de plomo en México!, Food and Wine Mayo 27, 2021
- Getting Lead Out of Mexican Pots and Kids Huffpost, Jan 23, 2014
Find public education materials and research:
- Pamphlet for parents containing 4 tips on how to protect themselves and their families from lead poisoning
- Poster to educate community members on how to test if their pottery contains led
- Pamphlet given to community members outlining necessary steps to determine if there is led paint in their homes, and how to protect themselves if lead is found
- Pamphlet given to parents to instruct them on how to protect their children from lead poisoning
- Pamphlet for community members on the process and effects of lead poisoning, as well as the legal improvements that have been made overtime to limit lead exposure
- Pamphlet given to community members explaining the Barro Aprobado Project and the effects of lead poisoning