WanaBana Lawsuit Filed: Dangers of Lead Poisoning Explained
Lead toxicity affects the human body in devastating and permanent ways. In fact, lead toxicity impacts nearly every function of the human body, making it especially dangerous. Unfortunately lead is both a unique and useful element, making it a common ingredient both now and historically. For example, it is well known that lead is soft, malleable, has poor conductibility, and is resistance to corrosion. In the U.S., however, strict laws on the use of lead in household items have been promulgated and its use is now highly regulated. One of the limits on lead is in food items, where the FDA has set strict limits on lead content, measure in parts per million. Those limits were greatly exceeded in the recent WanaBana applesauce lead outbreak linked to Ecuadorian applesauce, or one of its ingredients, currently hypothesized to be the cinnamon because the only WanaBana applesauce that tested high for lead contained cinnamon. A great deal of testing and more investigation will be needed to confirm this hypothesis.
At present, as of November 21, 2023, there have been at least 34 reports of illness submitted to FDA – but according to Ron Simon, the attorney representing the applesauce lead-poisoning victims, “this number is increasing daily, as evidenced by the number of calls our office is receiving each day as parents realize what happened and are taking their children in to be tested.” Simon filed the first WanaBana applesauce lawsuit in Florida on November 21st.
See the WanaBana press release entitled: WanaBana Issues Voluntary Recall of WanaBana Apple Cinnamon Fruit Purée Pouches due to Elevated Lead Levels here.
“Lead is toxic to humans and can affect people of any age or health status. Protecting children from exposure to lead is important to lifelong good health. Lead exposure in children is often difficult to see. Most children have no obvious immediate symptoms. If you suspect that your child might have consumed this product, parents should talk to your child’s healthcare provider about getting a blood lead test. Lead poisoning can only be diagnosed through clinical testing.”WanaBana
What are the Toxic Effects of Lead Poisoning?
The toxic effects of lead, a toxic heavy element found in the environment, is most apparent in major physiological systems such as the renal, reproductive and nervous systems. The side-effects, or symptoms of lead poisoning can include gastrointestinal illness, muscle aches, tingling or pins, and headaches. According to one noted study, “central nervous system and neuromuscular manifestations usually result from intense exposure, while gastrointestinal features usually result from exposure over longer periods.” For many, there will be no outward signs, as individuals vary greatly in their tolerance to lead toxicity, as well as the fact that symptoms are often delayed as the lead builds up in the human body. In those with significant lead poisoning, acute and chronic renal failure can occur. In terms of reproductive health, if blood levels exceed 40 μg/dL, large changes (decreases) in sperm count can result. For women, there is a stark rise in the risk of miscarriages, premature delivery, low birth weight, birth defects, and reduction in development during childhood.
Most concerning among these is the reduction in adolescent development. The brain is where most of the harm is caused, especially in children. Lead leads to loss of neuron myelin sheath, a reduction in the number of neurons, and interferes with neurotransmission. In severe cases, lead encephalopathy can occur when the lead penetrates the membrane surrounding the brain and starts breaking down tissues. This leads to brain swelling (known as cerebral edema). Symptoms include the loss of muscle control, an altered mental state, delirium, and seizures.
Another Challenge for Lead Poisoning: Few Effective Treatment Options and Permanent Nature of Lead Poisoning
The go-to protocols available for treating lead toxicity are few. First off, lead poisoning must be observed and tested. Lead in blood cells is visible under the microscope, or, in children, can be observed is sophisticated bone x-rays. The most common test, however, is routine blood testing that looks for lead levels in blood samples. The measure of lead levels in circulating blood, however, does not account for lead deposits throughout the human body. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) establishes a blood lead level for adults to be 10 μg/dL – for children, its half of that level (5 μg/dL). Children are much less tolerant of lead poisoning because their organs have not yet developed, and lead impacts that development deleteriously. Blood testing must be done often, however, because the fluctuations can be large.
Lead poisoning is usually monitored, and where appropriate, treated by using chelating salt disodium calcium edentate (SDCE), known to be a “removing agent.” Once the lead in the blood reacts with the SDCE, it can be discharged in the victim’s urine, leaving only calcium behind. For children, treatment with Succimer is used as it can reduce the amount of lead, again though urination. Other, more advanced techniques are available, but many are experimental. For direct ingestion of a large amount of lead, surgery can even be required. But again, these methods only go after the lead in the blood, and are not effective for removing the lead that has build up in the body.
Unfortunately, many of the effects of lead poisoning are permanent.