After a Massachusetts doctor found high levels of lead in an infant's blood last year, hospital staff found no hazards in common sources of the toxic metal – paint at the family's home, residue from workplace exposure, kitchenware and diet. Instead, they identified an unusual culprit: makeup.
For months, three to four times a week, the family had applied a Nigerian cosmetic and folk remedy called "tiro" to the boy's eyelids. The amount of lead in the boy's blood – 13 micrograms per deciliter – was more than double the level of concern set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A test revealed the cosmetic was 82.6 percent lead.
The findings, published earlier this month by the CDC, raise concerns about a product that certain immigrant populations often use but that health care providers rarely question as a source of lead exposure. The case is the first to the CDC's knowledge of an infant being poisoned by a cosmetic like tiro, said Jay Dempsey, the agency's health communications specialist.
"We're recommending (that) health care providers and workers should ask about eye medications and cosmetics when seeking a source of exposure to lead in children that have been diagnosed with elevated lead levels – particularly if they're from an immigrant population," Dempsey said.