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Corn in My Coffee, Lead in My Pot

Doctors at several hospitals in Leipzig, Germany, could not figure out the cause of a recent rash of lead poisoning. Was there an environmental disaster underway? They kept seeking the source and, after several weeks, as they write in the New England Journal of Medicine:

… we detected a common pattern: the patients were young, were unemployed or were students, had a history of smoking, and had body piercings. On questioning, all the patients eventually conceded that they were regular users of marijuana smoked in “joint” form or with the use of a water pipe.

Yes, it turns out that the people suffering from lead poisoning had smoked marijuana that had been laced with lead to increase its weight, presumably in order to increase the drug dealers’ profits. The Leipzig doctors estimate that the contaminated marijuana had a 10 percent lead content.

If marijuana were decriminalized, as several people advocated in a quorum we published here, such contaminations would probably cease. On the other hand — based on the Leipzig doctors’ observations of the lead-poisoning patients — body piercing would go through the roof.

This reminds me of an article I read some time back about scientists at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Ill., who found that coffee imported from Brazil is often padded with foreign substances, including corn.

If the price of corn (and lead) continues to rise, then of course dealers in coffee and marijuana may turn to cheaper substitutes.

This practice works well for products sold by volume or weight but unfortunately, the commodity that I produce — writing — is not as easily padded. Although I guess that, in a pinch, I could lace my stuff with a few paragraphs of this.

I would love to hear from you about other products, whether illicit or not, that are habitually cut with foreign substances.

(Hat tip: Denise Grady)