Lead in the household is pervasive across the globe and leads to chronic exposures, as local customs may result in the ubiquitous use of lead contaminated or adulterated products, such as spices, cookware, and other sources. In 2021, Pure Earth launched an ambitious project to conduct Rapid Marketplace Screenings (RMS) for lead in 25 countries. Using a protocol that allows quick collection of data, Pure Earth will deploy global teams to investigate markets worldwide.
The selected countries include India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Georgia, Armenia, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Colombia, Ghana, among others.
The protocol for marketplace screenings will be informed by preliminary fieldwork and regional reviews of published literature on local lead sources. In general, market screenings will sample spices, chocolate and candy, aluminum pots, ceramics, ayurvedic medicines, cosmetics, house paints and pigments, and toys.
Support for this work comes from GiveWell, the Effective Altruism Global Health and Development Fund, and Open Philanthropy.
Data analysis is ongoing and expected to be finished by fall 2022. The results of this study will help prioritize countries for future interventions.
As of March 2022, Pure Earth India has conducted the Rapid Marketplace Screening (RMS) in 20 markets from 10 cities in Tamil Nadu, sampling a wide range of potentially lead-contaminated products, including spices, ceremonial powders, sweets, herbal medicines, paints, plastic toys, metallic & earthen cookware etc. Approximately 480 samples have been collected and tested and a fraction of the representative samples with higher contamination levels were sent to the laboratory for further analysis.
Pure Earth Philippines has conducted the Rapid Marketplace Screening (RMS) in 8 markets from 7 cities and towns in Greater Metro Manila, testing a wide range of products possibly contaminated with Lead (Pb). Close to 600 samples from over 70 vendors were collected and are now being analyzed using an XRF, with a fraction of representative samples awaiting further laboratory analysis.
In Bangladesh, lead chromate is often added to spices such as turmeric in order to enhance color. A desk review to summarize available information for Bangladesh was the first step in planning Rapid Marketplace Screening (RMS) data collection. As of March 2022, 163 samples from marketplaces have been tested, including spices, rice, cookware, pottery, traditional medicines, cosmetics, paint, and toys, among other items. The RMS is being conducted in collaboration with International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b).