Let’s get the Lead Out – of Gilroy

The most appalling story I read in The Dispatch this year had
nothing to do with war or violent crime. It had nothing to do with
elections. It had only a tangential connection with schools, and
only a potential connection with test scores.
The most appalling story I read in The Dispatch this year had nothing to do with war or violent crime. It had nothing to do with elections. It had only a tangential connection with schools, and only a potential connection with test scores.

The most appalling story I read in The Dispatch this year was published a month ago on Oct. 12. The subject was Mexican candies popular among children, which contain lead.

Lead is a health hazard. A report posted on nsc.org details the damage that may ensue.

Children under the age of six, including unborn children, are particularly vulnerable, because their brains and central nervous systems are still developing.

Even very low levels of exposure can result in reduced IQ, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, behavioral problems, stunted growth, impaired hearing and kidney damage.

At higher levels of exposure, a child may become mentally retarded, fall into a coma, and even die from lead poisoning. Lead poisoning has also been associated with juvenile delinquency and criminal behavior, though this link may be more associative than causative.

Adults can tolerate a higher level of lead exposure without adverse health effects, but at high levels, lead can increase blood pressure and cause fertility problems, nerve disorders, muscle and joint pain, irritability and memory or concentration problems.

In pregnant women, lead can easily be transferred to the fetus. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine avers that there is no level of lead exposure that can be considered safe.

A month ago, when The Dispatch story first appeared, I asked our youngest child, the only one still at home, whether she had ever consumed any of these lead-laced goodies.

She said yes. She had not particularly liked them, and had not eaten much of them, but they had been a favorite with our middle son and his buddy Nicholaus. The boys usually bought them from the ice cream truck, which explains why they had snuck in under my radar; I never monitored and seldom paid for ice cream truck purchases.

Living in the United States of America, we get a false sense of security about our food and water supply. We expect that our food will be inspected, toxins will be detected, and hazards will be rejected long before they reach the market place.

But candies such as Baby Lucas have slipped through the FDA screening procedures, ironically enough, in part because their quality control is so low that sometimes they have lead in them and sometimes they do not.

These candies pose a significant risk to the health and brains of Gilroy children. In spite of the Dispatch story, the word is not getting out to the kids, to judge by the reaction of my trig class today: a uniform “Huh?”

Besides, kids take risks. They d o not understand consequences. They believe that they are invulnerable. As Ricardo Chavez said to The Dispatch reporter, when told about the dangers of eating lead-contaminated candies, “You’re going to die happy.”

I think the city of Gilroy should ban the sale of these candies. My in-house political analyst points out that Gilroy may not be able to; such an ordinance may run afoul of the state pre-emption clause.

Personally, I doubt that pre-emption applies. It seems to be invoked for civil rights matters, and I never heard that anyone had a civil right to sell or eat lead-laced lemon pepper candies.

Who exactly would fight such a ban? Would children lobby for the right to slowly retard themselves? Would parents petition for the right to poison their progeny? Would ice cream vendors strike for the right to sell toxins to tots? Surely not.

Perhaps California and the federal government will follow suit, in time. Perhaps not: I have a hunch that now that NAFTA is in place, banning Mexican candies nationwide would be more than a federal issue. Perhaps Lucas and Co. will get their quality assurance procedures under control.

Until they do, if we cannot get the lead out of the candy, we can, and should, get the leaded candies out of Gilroy.

Cynthia Anne Walker is a homeschooling mother of three and former engineer. She is a published independent author. Her column is published in The Dispatch every week.

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