Contractors remove lead contamination from a home in Providence, Rhode Island in 2006. Photo: AP
Homeopathy is, at best, worthless and potentially dangerous. Lead poisoning is always bad and dangerous. Lead poisoning from a supposedly homeopathic product is thus ultra-terrible.
On Friday, the Centres for Disease Control in the US published in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report an account of a female infant in Manchester, Connecticut who "showed normocytic anemia and a blood lead level of 41 μg/dL (levels exceeding 5 μg/dL are abnormal)." Epidemiological investigators determined the lead poisoning was unlikely to have come from two interior window wells with lead-based paint, the CDC reported, but the parents of the child later informed them the child had occasionally worn a "homeopathic magnetic hematite healing bracelet" purchased at a local fair.
The "hematite" bracelet's spacer beads, when tested, showed lead levels in excess of 17,000 ppm — far higher than the Consumer Product Commission's 2010 limit of 100 ppm in items "manufactured and marketed for children." Investigators could find "no identifying marks indicating metal content or manufacturer," not locate the original vendor.
The CDC recognises no safe blood lead level in children, and warns that any amount of lead in a child's bloodstream can negatively impact the development of almost all of the body's systems. Since young children have a poorly developed blood-brain barrier, the risk of permanent damage to the brain from lead exposure is high.
"High blood levels of lead in children lead to cognitive problems," New York University School of Medicine's chair of the department of environmental medicine, Max Costa, told Mic. "Lead lowers the IQ of children. They're more likely to show criminal behaviour."
Exposure typically occurs from lead-contaminated dust, water or materials like paint, though objects with high amounts of lead sometimes end up in children's mouths. While action by public health authorities has lowered average blood lead levels by over 75 per cent since the 1970s, according to the Natural Resources Defence Council, the problem still affects predominantly lower-income communities: "Their homes are more likely to have lead paint, have a yard with contaminated soil, or be situated near polluting facilities."
As Ars Technica noted, regulators including the Food and Drug Administration have long been suspicious of homeopathic remedies which potentially contain dangerous amounts of toxic substances. Hyland's, one of the leading manufacturers of bullshit, scientifically unsupported homeopathic pseudo-medicines, recalled its line of teething tablets in April after the FDA determined the pills contained "widely inconsistent levels of the toxic substance belladonna, aka deadly nightshade." More than 400 reports of sick infants emerged, including 10 infant deaths.
Despite scientific evidence the vast majority of alternative medical treatments don't work, the FDA lacks the authority to crack down on the estimated $US50 ($63) billion industry thanks in large part to well-funded lobbying efforts.