10News I-Team Investigates Dangerous Dishware

Mark Lindgren was born a healthy, happy boy.

His mother, Debbie, loved snapping pictures of him.

"He ate well, just behaved, and was very happy," said Debbie.

But starting at age 2, Mark's behavior and health changed.

"He was vomiting, suffering from nausea, lost his appetite," said Debbie.

The pictures stopped and the worrying began, especially when Mark's once clear speech became slurred.

"It was just so heartbreaking to see him go through that, and our concern at the time just going from physician to physician was, 'What is going on with our little boy,'" Debbie said.

The family looked at ADHD, neurological problems and even autism.

Finally, after a year, one doctor suggested a lead test and the results were disturbing.

"He had lead poisoning and very high lead poisoning levels," said Debbie.

Lead is a toxic chemical element. It is far more dangerous for children than adults, as it is easily absorbed into growing bones.

Dr. Richard Clark, director of toxicology at the University of California, San Diego Medical Center, said, "Lead affects mostly the brain and the kidneys."

Clark added that lead poisoning could lead to lower IQ, learning difficulties and behavior problems.

"Lead can get into the brain, cause damage to the nerves of the brain, cells in the brain, and that can cause us to act differently, think differently," he said.

Most cases of poisoning, Clark said, are linked to older lead-based paint.

However, the Lindgren's home was new.

Debbie began to test everything and was shocked when a home test kit showed the only item in her house that had lead was her plates.

"Right away, I was scared stiff. Not only was my younger son eating off these plates, but all of us were," she said.

The family had eaten off the plates daily for years since they were purchased from a Mervyn's store.

The plates are called Sakura Majesticware Royale… Sue Zipkin, dated 1996. The amount of lead allowed is limited by law so Debbie immediately contacted the company president.

"He confirmed the plates were made in China, testing had been done in Indonesia, but he could not find the results for my particular pattern," said Debbie.

The family sent the plates to the manufacturer for testing.

In e-mail correspondence between Debbie and the company president, the president promised Debbie she would see the results.

Later, the company told Debbie the plates were not the source of her son's lead poisoning, but refused to share its test results.

"And I was really angry. If it wasn't the plates then why wasn't he willing to release the test results to me? So, I was very suspicious and I contacted the FDA," said Debbie.

It took the Food and Drug Administration a year and 2 months to test the plates.

The results showed the plates contained more lead than what the state of California considered safe, even more lead than the much less stringent federal standards.

That meant the plates should not have been sold in the U.S.

"The FDA said that since the plates were no longer sold in stores, it could not recall them," Debbie said.

The 10News I-Team was able to find the very same plates for sale online.

What's more, discount and second-hand stores with fewer than 11 employees could sell these plates without a health warning.

"He's doing much better," said Debbie.

Mark is once again a happy boy, although it has taken intensive and costly treatment.

His speech and hearing are at about 40 percent of a typical child, and only small signs of the lead poisoning remain.

If you are concerned about lead in your tableware, you could buy a simple lead test kid from most hardware stores.

Also, retailers like Macy's and Ikea carry brands of plates that are lead free.

The FDA mostly relies on manufacturers to list the lead content in plates, although the agency does conduct random testing.

Although the entire Lindgren family had higher than safe blood lead levels, it was their youngest son that was affected the most.

Younger children are always the most vulnerable, according to experts.

Mervyn's said they rely on manufacturers to meet FDA and California limits, and post warnings when the items exceed those levels.

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