Objective: Report of a lead intoxication epidemic caused by ingestion of contaminated ground paprika.
Design: Retrospective study of case histories.
Setting: Institutional, toxicological and medical referral center for ambulatory and hospitalized care.
Patients: One hundred forty-one adults consumed paprika contaminated with lead tetroxide (red lead).
Interventions: Intravenous calcium disodium versenate (edetic acid).
Main outcome measures: Measurement of zinc protoporphyrin:heme ratio of whole blood and the blood lead level. EDTA mobilization test.
Results: Fifty-three patients had symptoms and signs of lead poisoning. The most common clinical signs were colic and/or anemia. Twenty-six persons showed increased lead absorption without clinical symptoms and signs. Chelation therapy with calcium disodium versenate resulted in complete clinical recovery.
Conclusion: Lead-contaminated ground paprika, not previously described as a cause of alimentary lead intoxication, may cause symptomatic poisoning.