Use of lead-glazed ceramic ware and lead-based folk remedies in a rural community of Baja California, Mexico

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Global Health Promotion

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© 2016, © The Author(s) 2016. Background: Lead exposure from lead-glazed ceramics (LGCs) and traditional folk remedies have been identified as significant sources of elevated blood lead levels in Mexico and the United States. This study took place from 2005 to 2012 in a rural community in Baja California, Mexico. Objectives: 1) Investigate the knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to lead and lead exposures from LGCs and two lead-based folk remedies (azarcon and greta); and 2) evaluate a pilot intervention to provide alternative lead-safe cookware. Methods: A baseline household survey was conducted in 2005, followed by the pilot intervention in 2006, and follow-up surveys in 2007 and 2012. For the pilot intervention, families who reported using LGCs were given lead-safe alternative cookware to try and its acceptance was evaluated in the following year. Results: The community was mostly of indigenous background from Oaxaca and a high proportion of households had young children. In 2006, all participants using traditional ceramic ware at the time (n = 48) accepted lead-safe alternative cookware to try, and 97% reported that they were willing to exchange traditional ceramic ware for lead-safe alternatives. The use of ceramic cookware decreased from over 90% during respondents’ childhood household use in Oaxaca to 47% in 2006 among households in Baja California, and further reduced to 16.8% in 2012. While empacho, a folk illness, was widely recognized as an intestinal disorder, there was almost universal unfamiliarity with the use and knowledge of azarcon and greta for its treatment. Conclusion: This pilot evaluation provides evidence 1) for an effective and innovative strategy to reduce lead exposure from LGCs and 2) of the feasibility of substituting lead-free alternative cookware for traditional ceramic ware in a rural indigenous community, when delivered in a culturally appropriate manner with health education. This strategy could complement other approaches to reduce exposure to lead from LGCs.





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