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Chronicle Goes Upbeat on Ethnic Lead Poisoning
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June 23, 2008, 02:57 PM
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This item is a particularly egregious example of the San Francisco Chronicle emphasizing cheerful aspects of diversity while leaving out important facts entirely.

The topic is lead poisoning among Oaxacan immigrants in California who are eating snacks sent from home, like fried grasshoppers and pumpkin seeds which contain hazardous levels of the toxic metal. But at no point does the story mention the symptoms of even low levels of lead in the blood. The emotional focus is instead on how much the foreigners love their traditional foods.

A far more informational Chronicle report in 2006 noted, "Just 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood can permanently lower a child`s IQ by four to five points." Today`s article [Oaxacan townspeople have high lead levels, June 22] states that some Oaxacan immigrant children have lead levels "reaching 20 micrograms per deciliter."

Since half of Hispanic children don`t graduate from high school, you might think cultural habits that decrease intelligence would be taken seriously as a public health concern. But at the Chron, not so much.

In an open-air market in this rural town, indigenous Zapotec women scoop fried, rust-colored grasshoppers and pumpkin seeds from large baskets into plastic bags. Customers, from elderly men to school children, pluck down a few pesos to munch on Oaxaca state`s most popular snacks.

Scenes like these make Oaxaca immigrants to the United States—many of whom live in the Bay Area—homesick. And one of the best ways to assuage their nostalgia: lovingly prepared care packages sent by relatives filled with homemade goodies.

"It`s comfort food," said Teresa Mendez, a 54-year-old market cook who regularly sends local treats to her grandchildren in Northern California. "Food keeps us connected."

Remember the topic of this article is the incidence of lead poisoning caused by ethnic foods, but it reads more like an advertisement for fried grasshoppers than a warning against them.