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News From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
November 14, 2017

“Healing Bracelet” Causes Harm

JAMA. 2017;318(18):1751. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.15723

Lead poisoning of a 9-month-old baby girl in Manchester, Connecticut, last fall has been traced back to an unexpected source—a metal bracelet. Routine screening revealed that the baby had normocytic anemia and a blood lead level of 41 μg/dL—8 times the normal limit.

Kimberly Dubanoski/Manchester Health Department, Connecticut

The infant was cared for only at her home, built in 1926. Two interior window wells in the house were found to have peeling lead-based paint, but given their inaccessibility and normal blood lead levels in the infant’s 3 older siblings, investigators concluded that this was not the likely source of the poisoning.

The parents told the local health department that the infant sometimes wore a handmade homeopathic “healing bracelet” to relieve teething discomfort. They had bought the bracelet at a local fair and had seen their daughter chew on it.

Testing revealed that small spacer beads on the bracelet contained lead. The bead manufacturer could not be identified, and the person who had made the bracelet could not be located.

Lead paint, dust, and contaminated soil are the main sources of lead exposure in children, although lead-containing charms and jewelry marketed to children were linked to severe lead poisoning and death in 2003 and 2006.

In 2010, the Consumer Product Safety Commission set a limit on lead content in items made and marketed for children. However, the standard doesn’t apply to items such as the homeopathic bracelet that are not intended for use by children. Physicians and caregivers should be aware of the potential for lead poisoning in children who have mouthed metal objects, especially jewelry.

News From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Section Editor: Rebecca Voelker, MSJ.