Lead intoxication epidemic caused by ingestion of contaminated ground paprika

J Toxicol Clin Toxicol. 1996;34(5):507-11. doi: 10.3109/15563659609028008.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antidotes / administration & dosage
  • Antidotes / therapeutic use
  • Capsicum / poisoning*
  • Chelating Agents / administration & dosage
  • Chelating Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cohort Studies
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Edetic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Edetic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / blood
  • Female
  • Food Contamination*
  • Humans
  • Hungary / epidemiology
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Lead / adverse effects*
  • Lead / blood
  • Lead Poisoning / drug therapy
  • Lead Poisoning / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Plants, Medicinal*
  • Protoporphyrins / blood
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antidotes
  • Chelating Agents
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Protoporphyrins
  • zinc protoporphyrin
  • Lead
  • Edetic Acid
  • lead tetroxide