SEPTEMBER 3, 2017
Centres for Disease Control: Homeopathic “healing bracelet” poisons baby with high levels of lead
Beads tested positive for lead after baby found to have 8X worrying levels in blood.
Beth Mole, September 3, 2017
A nine-month-old baby in Connecticut had dangerously high levels of lead in her blood after chewing on a homeopathic “healing bracelet” used to ease teething pain, according to
a report published Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The baby’s condition came to light last September during a routine health screening. Healthcare workers found that the baby was anemic and had a blood lead level of 41 micrograms per deciliter (μg/dL). While no level of lead is known to be safe, the CDC recommends health interventions when a child’s blood lead level reaches 5 μg/dL.
Local public health authorities worked to track down the source of the lead. They were first drawn to peeling lead-based paint on two windows in the house in which the infant lived. Dust and peelings from deteriorating lead-based paint in older homes are among the most common sources of lead exposure in children
in addition to contaminated soils. But the authorities ruled it out after the baby’s three siblings, who also lived in the house, were found to have blood lead levels less than 3 μg/dL. And, they noted, the young infant had no access to the windows.
The authorities subsequently homed in on the bracelet, a homemade “homeopathic magnetic hematite healing bracelet.” The baby’s parents said they bought it from an artisan at a local fair and gave it to the baby to wear and mouth to ease teething pain. Small spacer beads on the bracelet (shown) tested positive for lead at a level of 17,000 parts-per-million. The Consumer Product Commission in 2010 set the allowable limit of lead in products intended for children at 100 parts-per-million.
The authors of the report—Drs. Patricia Garcia and Jennifer Haile, lead treatment specialists at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center—noted that the bracelet had no warnings or branding. They added that they couldn’t get the fair’s vendor information and were unable to track down the bracelet’s maker.
Garcia and Haile concluded in their report:
Clinicians should be aware of the potential for lead poisoning in children who have ingested or mouthed any metal objects, especially jewelry. Caregivers should be made aware of the risks for lead poisoning resulting from children wearing or handling handmade or adult metal jewelry, even if items are manufactured or purchased in the United States, because infants have natural mouthing behaviors; these items can also pose a choking hazard for small children
Lead poisoning can affect nearly every system in the body, the CDC warns. Lead is a neurotoxin and exposures at a young age can cause lowered IQ, inability to pay attention, and lifelong behavioral problems.
This isn’t the first time that authorities have found harm to children
from homeopathic remedies—alternative treatments based on the erroneous and dangerous belief that “like cures like.” For years, the Food and Drug Administration has been investigating homeopathic teething tablets and gels that the agency found contained inconsistent amounts of the toxic substance, belladonna aka deadly nightshade. In April, one of the manufacturers, Hyland’s, recalled its homeopathic teething products after hundreds of reports of sick babies, 10 infant deaths, and strong-arming from the FDA.
The FDA reminds parents that no medications or special jewelry are necessary to manage teething pain. The agency recommends gentle gum massage, cold teething rings, and cloths.
Beth is Ars Technica’s health reporter.
She’s interested in biomedical research, infectious disease, health policy and law, and has a Ph.D. in microbiology.
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