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Assessing Lead in Spices

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Turmeric-Lead graphic
Turmeric poster -Bengali
Turmeric Seller 2
Turmeric piles
Turmeric Seller 1

Assessing Lead in Spices



1.  Compare blood lead levels among populations of pregnant women and children in 5 districts of Bangladesh from present sampling (2022) to historic sampling (2012-2015)

2.  Assess possible sources of lead exposure among pregnant women and children in 2022

3.  Assess lead chromate turmeric adulteration at markets and polishing mills across Bangladesh



Prenatal and childhood lead exposure causes numerous health problems ranging from anemia and hypertension to impaired function of the immune, reproductive, and nervous systems. Developmentally, childhood lead exposure irreversibly damages the brain and reduces IQ and lifetime earnings. In low- and middle-income countries, this results in nearly 1 trillion dollars in lost productivity every year and 16 billion dollars or 6% of GDP in Bangladesh alone. 

An intervention to reduce lead chromate turmeric adulteration in Bangladesh successfully reduced the prevalence of highly contaminated spice samples from a pre-intervention rate of 50% highly contaminated samples, to no detectable lead at post-intervention measurements more than 1 year later. However, the endline analysis only analyzed effects on lead concentrations in turmeric samples and did not analyze the effects on the human lead burden.

This study assesses the association of a successfully implemented nationwide lead-contaminated turmeric reduction intervention on blood lead levels of pregnant women and children by comparing the current blood lead levels with historic blood lead levels of a similar age group of population from the same geographical region.


Project Dates



Stage of Work

All 1,400 participants have been enrolled and initial exposure surveys have been conducted and samples have been collected. Blood and environmental samples need to be assessed for lead levels. Turmeric assessments are ongoing. The field team is preparing to complete industry assessments in the catchment areas and to conduct household re-visits to explore possible sources of lead exposure.



Primary Contact:  Jenna Forsyth

Stanford University

.   Stephen Luby, (PI)

.   Jenna Forsyth (Oversees project)

.   Christlee Elmera (Data Manager)


International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b)

.   Mahbub Rahman (Local PI)

.   Jesmin Sultana (Oversees fieldwork)


Pure Earth

.   Mahfuzur Rahman (Local collaborator)



Open Philanthropy (Givewell) / Pure Earth