NEW YORK (AP) _ Don't use illegal cosmetic products that
sometimes contain lead, which can cause brain and nervous system
damage, health officials warned.
Lead has been known to be harmful for many years, but the city
reissued its warning Thursday after investigating five cases of
pregnant women and children poisoned after using the products in
recent months, health officials said.
The products, sometimes called kohl, kajal and surma, are used
in parts of Asia, the Middle East and northern Africa. Children,
who sometimes wear the eye cosmetics, are especially at risk
because they might unwittingly place their hands in their mouths
after touching the products on their faces.
Lead, a toxic metal that can cause learning and behavioral
problems in children, also can damage the brain, nervous system,
kidneys and reproductive system in anyone who ingests it. Pregnant
women can pass on lead poisoning to their unborn children, causing
premature births and lower birth weights, city health officials
``Children won't feel or look sick at all, but there could be
problems with learning and behavior," said Nancy Clark, assistant
commissioner of environmental disease prevention at the Department
of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Although the federal Food and Drug Administration bans the
import and sale of the cosmetic products, they still end up on
shelves in neighborhood stores, particularly those specializing in
imported goods, Clark said. Consumers can't distinguish safe brands
from dangerous ones because lead is never listed as an ingredient,
the health department said.
Products from stores tested by the health department were
comprised of upward of 50 percent lead, Clark said. Health
officials say they're working with distributors and storeowners to
remove the products from shelves and warn customers not to use
``It's important that people who use these products stop using
them and that they get a blood test," Clark said.
For more information, call 212-POISONS (212-764-7667).
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(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)