Although the amount of lead in vinegar is small, experts say regularly consuming it may pose a risk, particularly to children. Eating one tablespoon a day of some balsamic or red wine vinegars can raise a young child’s lead level by more than 30 percent. Aged vinegars … contain more lead than the quicker brewed, less expensive kinds. For three imported varieties tested in 2002, people who eat one tablespoon per day would be exposed to seven to 10 times the maximum daily level of lead set by California.
One of the oldest known contaminants in the world, lead can damage people’s neurological systems, particularly children’s developing brains. Even low levels can reduce a child’s IQ or trigger learning and behavioral disorders, scientific studies show. Lead also is a carcinogen, and in adults, it is linked to cardiovascular, kidney and immune system effects.
The heavy metal is so toxic and persistent in the body that there is no known threshold below which adverse effects do not occur, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Under Prop. 65, the state’s maximum allowable daily level for lead is 0.5 micrograms per day. Based on that, the Environmental Law Foundation calculated that vinegars could contain no more than 34 parts per billion. The top three tested in 2002 contained 307 ppb, 276 ppb and 237 ppb. They don’t appear to be available for sale now.
Click on the link to read the entire report or see a list of vinegars that do not violate California’s Prop. 65 limits for lead.