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Environ Health Perspect. Apr 2001; 109(4): 433–435.
PMCID: PMC1240286
Research Article
Lead poisoning from homemade wine: a case study.
S Mangas, R Visvanathan, and M van Alphen
Environmental Health Service, Department of Human Services, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia. sam.mangas@dhs.sa.gov.au
Abstract
A 66-year-old man suffered the symptoms of severe lead poisoning for 2 years before diagnosis. The man had a blood lead level (PbB) on admission to hospital of 98 microg/dL. A detailed investigation revealed that the poisoning occurred as a result of drinking a homemade red wine, for which analyses showed a lead concentration up to 14 mg/L--70 times the Australian maximum limit for lead in wine. The source of the lead was a highly corroded enamel bathtub in which grape crushings and juice were stored for a week prior to bottling. The corrosion of the enamel surface of the bathtub had resulted in pitted patches up to 1 mm in depth along the side of the bathtub. Powdering of the tub surface was evident below a level where wine had been in contact with the sides of the tub. The homemade wine had a pH of 3.8, which would have greatly contributed to the solubilization of metals from the glaze. We conducted a test in which commercial red wine of similar pH and containing < 0.2 mg/L lead was placed in this tub for 7 days. Subsequent testing revealed a lead level of 310 mg/L. This high lead concentration is consistent with the surface area of enamel on the bathtub being in contact with a small liquid volume as in the case of the leaching test using commercial red wine. This case study highlights the importance of the use of food-grade materials for the preparation and storage of homemade beverages or food.
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