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Health - Top Stories

Baby Suffers Lead Poisoning From Homeopathic Magnetic Healing Bracelet

Forbes logo Forbes 2017-09-02 Bruce Y. Lee, Contributor

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A bracelet on a baby (not the one pictured) seems to have lead to lead poisoning. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Why exactly does a baby need to wear a “homeopathic magnetic hematite healing bracelet”? Probably not to get lead poisoning. But that is what apparently happened to a 9-month-old baby in Manchester, Connecticut, according to a report in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDD’s) Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report.

For the report, Patricia Garcia, MD and Jennifer Haile, MD of the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center described how the infant’s parent’s bought this handmade bracelet at a local fair and placed it intermittently on the child…because 9-month old babies do not ask to wear a homeopathic magnetic hematite healing bracelet. The baby, as babies do with anything small enough to put into their mouths, would then intermittently chew on the bracelet.  

Subsequently, during a standard check-up, lab tests showed that the baby was anemic (low blood counts) with a blood lead level of 41 μg/dL, much higher than the 5 μg/dL upper acceptable limit. Searching the baby’s (and the parents’) home found no other possible sources of lead exposure for the baby besides small spacer beads on the bracelet that had 17,000 ppm of lead, far above the 100 ppm limit set by the Consumer Product Commission in 2010 for children’s products. The bracelet did not have any labels that said “contains lead” or “exceeds by 170 times the limit of lead that should be in children’s products” or “why eat paint chips when you can chew on this bracelet.” The Manchester Health Department could not locate the maker of the bracelet, because as the movie Big taught us, finding the manufacturer of anything sold at a fair can be challenging. 

There is no situation in which you or your children should eat lead. Exposing children to lead can lead to brain, kidney, or nervous system damage, seizures, a coma, or death. These are all bad. Signs of lead poisoning include delayed development or learning difficulties, irritability, fatigue, constipation, loss of appetite or weight loss, abdominal pain, vomiting, hearing loss, and pica. Pica is when someone keeps eating things that have no nutritional value, like paint chips or dirt.

Which brings us back to the original question? Why was a baby wearing a “homeopathic magnetic hematite healing bracelet”? Practitioners of magnet therapy or magnotherapy claim that wearing a magnet can increase blood flow to your underlying tissues and restore your body’s “electromagnetic energy balance”, in case you happen to have misplaced it somewhere.  

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Actor Francesco Quinn (R) and wife Julie Quinn poses wearing magnetic therapy jewelry. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

But before you turn your children into refrigerators and start sticking magnets on them, what’s the hard scientific evidence that such magnets do any this? What number is shaped like a bracelet? The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NICCIH) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has a website on magnet therapy that says “magnets have not been proven to work for any health-related purpose.”  The website then proceeds to re-state this conclusion in various polite ways. such as “do not use magnets as a replacement for conventional medical treatment” and “scientific evidence does not support the use of magnets for pain relief.”

Magnets can help your child’s report card stay on the refrigerator, a compass work, a crane to lift a stuffed animal out of a pit, or a train run smoothly on tracks but there is zero scientific evidence that putting a magnet on your baby will help him or her…unless your baby is secretly building a Maglev train.

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