Folk Remedies Blamed for Lead Poisoning Scare

A Nigerian folk remedy in which a lead-based cosmetic is applied to children's eyelids was identified by doctors at Boston Children's Hospital as the cause of a case of severe lead poisoning. The discovery has led the hospital and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to release a national warning that some other cultural folk practices might lead to similar incidents. The Boston Globe reports:

[The Nigerian boy's] family believed it would make the boy more attractive and improve his vision. The child suffered no apparent harm, but now the case is prompting an alert from federal health officials about the risk of heavy metal poisoning from folk remedies found in many immigrant cultures.

A report Thursday from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention details the puzzle solved by specialists at Children's Hospital and highlights the number of cultures, including Asian, African, and Middle Eastern, that use similar products that may contain lead.

CDC officials advised obstetricians, pediatricians, midwives, and other health care professionals to discuss this potential health risk with patients during prenatal and early childhood medical visits.

Lead can harm the brain, kidneys, and nervous system, and children are particularly sensitive. Even low levels of lead can make it hard for them to learn, pay attention, and behave, according to health officials.

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