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Republic of Georgia: Protecting Children from Lead in Spices

Republic of Georgia: Protecting Children from Lead in Spices
the details…
Key pollutant
Lead-adulterated spices, other potential consumer sources


Clarios Foundation, Strategic Policy Fund
Project Partners

Government of Georgia

Georgia National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC)

UK Health Security Agency

In the Republic of Georgia, 41% of children under the age of eight have elevated blood lead levels. This was revealed in a 2018 survey conducted by the Georgian National Center for Disease Control and Public Health along with UNICEF.

Pure Earth was invited by the government to investigate the issue. A  research paper on the findings– Elevated Levels of Lead (Pb) Identified in Georgian Spices—  was published in 2020. Pure Earth’s study traced the source of lead exposure to lead in spices.

Pure Earth investigations found that most of the lead was getting into spices during processing by large spice importers and wholesale retailers. A dye called lead chromate was being added to spices to enhance their color. Composed of two very toxic heavy metals, lead and hexavalent chromium, lead chromate is widely used as a yellow coloring pigment. In response to this discovery, the Georgian government swiftly passed regulation that targeted the problem. 

According to follow-up investigations conducted in 2022, lead has been almost completely eliminated from the spice market in Georgia. The government’s aggressive enforcement has been essential and effective in reducing the use of lead chromate. Research is ongoing to identify any other potential sources of lead exposure in the country. 

Pure Earth is working in Georgia to protect children from lead exposure as part of the Global Lead Program and the Protecting Every Child’s Potential (PECP) initiative. Support for this project comes from the Clarios Foundation. 

Read more on the blog.


Next phase is currently underway with the support of the Strategic Policy Fund:

In order to determine if the spice intervention resulted in reduced lead levels in children, it is necessary to conduct post-intervention blood lead testing and home-based assessments .  These data are critical to determining if this policy/regulation-based intervention should be replicated and/or adapted in other impacted countries/regions.

The Government Of Georgia is now participating in a joint research initiative with Pure Earth, Georgia National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC), and the UK Health Security Agency to find out 1) the current contribution from spices (and other sources) to lead poisoning among children in two regions of Georgia, and 2) reductions in average BLLs these two regions, potentially as a result of the 2020-2022 regulatory and enforcement interventions.