After an infant girl in Connecticut developed lead poisoning, the cause was found to be a bracelet made with lead beads. Doctors discovered that the 9-month-old had abnormally high blood lead levels during a routine checkup.
Her blood lead level was 41 micrograms per deciliter (ug/dL); anything over 5 ug/dL is considered abnormal, according to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Health investigators visited the infant’s home to try and determine where the lead originated. They found lead based paint on windows in the home; however, the child would not have been able to reach the windows. There were also 3 siblings in the house between 3-5 years old whose lead levels tests came back normal.
Investigators also found a homemade bracelet that the infant was given to chew on to relieve teething pain. The beads on the bracelet contained extremely high levels of lead; 17,000 parts per million (ppm). The amount of lead that's considered safe for children's products is 90 ppm or 100 ppm, depending on the type of product, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
Investigators were unable to track down the manufacturer of the beads in the Connecticut case or the bracelet maker, according to the report.
In 2003 and 2006, there were several cases of severe lead poisoning and death linked to lead-containing jewelry and charms marketed to children, the report said. After these instances, the CPSC set limits on the amount of lead allowed in products marketed to kids, and each year, there are recalls of children's jewelry that exceed those limits. However, the limits do not apply to products that aren't intended for use by children, the report noted.
There's no safe amount of lead exposure for children, according to the CDC, and the toxic heavy metal can affect nearly every part of the body. In many cases, lead exposure can occur with no obvious symptoms. Symptoms of severe lead poisoning can include confusion, seizures, coma and death.
Lead in the body is distributed to the brain, liver, kidney and bones. It is stored in the teeth and bones, where it accumulates over time.
For severe cases of lead poisonings, doctors will sometimes recommend Chelation therapy or EDTA chelation therapy.
There are safe non-toxic ways to treat teething pain in infants. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests using a chilled teething ring or “gently rubbing or massaging the gums with one of your fingers.” However, there are safety concerns about plastic teething rings. A 2015 study found chemicals that can affect the child’s hormones (also called endocrine-disrupting chemicals, or EDCs) in several types of plastic baby “teethers..”For this reason, parents may want to avoid using teethers made of any kind of plastic. While there are several non-plastic alternatives on the market which claim to be safe, some of these products may not have been adequately tested. In addition, some teething products could break or leak, presenting other safety concerns.
Safe ways to help your infant through the teething period include gum massage, a chilled spoon from the refrigerator (not the freezer!) to suck on, a chilled wet washcloth dipped in water, breast milk or chamomile tea to chew on, or chilled foods such as applesauce or yogurt to soothe pain.
Talk to your pediatrician first before applying any over-the-counter products for teething. Never put Lidocaine on your child’s gums.
In 2016, the FDA urged parents to avoid homeopathic teething rings that contain Belladonna. Belladonna comes from the deadly nightshade plant and can be poisonous.
The bottom line on easing teething pain in infants is to talk with your pediatrician about ways to help your little one can get through this sometimes challenging time.
Story sources: Sara G. Miller, https://www.livescience.com/60287-teething-bracelet-causes-lead-poisoning.html