'Healing bracelet' gave baby lead poisoning, says CDC

Tanya Edwards
Teething bracelet contained high levels of lead. (Photo: Getty Images)

After a routine health screening last September, a 9-month-old baby in Connecticut was found with dangerously high levels of lead in her blood as a result of chewing on a homeopathic “healing bracelet,” according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Public health authorities initially tested the paint in the family home, but concluded it was not the cause because the other children in the household did not have lead poisoning. They then focused on the bracelet the baby was chewing on.

The bracelet, designed to relieve teething pain,  was a homemade “homeopathic magnetic hematite healing bracelet,” according to the baby’s parents, who said they bought it from an artisan at a local fair and gave it to the child to ease teething pain.

The bracelet’s spacer beads contained lead, resulting in the poisoning of a baby. (Photo: Kimberly Dubanoski, Manchester Health Department, Conn.)

The smaller “spacer” beads on the bracelet tested positive for lead at a level of 17,000 parts per million, according to the CDC report. The allowable limit of lead in products intended for children is 100 parts per million.

Although no level of lead is known to be safe, health care officials found that the baby was anemic and had a blood lead level of 41 micrograms per deciliter (μg/dL). The CDC recommends health interventions when a child’s blood lead level reaches 5 μg/dL.

The authors of the report noted they were unable to find any maker’s mark on the bracelet, or contact the vendor at the local fair, and that parents and 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.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, if your baby is suffering from teething pain, you can rub his or her gums with a clean finger, place a cool washcloth on the gums, provide hard food (like a chilled carrot) to gnaw on, and administer baby acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, children’s Motrin, others). It does not mention giving the baby a flea market bracelet.

If you suspect your child may have lead poisoning — symptoms include abdominal pain, constipation, headaches, anemia, and more — get medical help at once. Even low lead exposure can cause permanent intellectual disability.

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