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EPA Grant Helps Washington Department of Health Track-Down Folk Remedies Tainted With Toxins

Release Date: 03/25/2010
Contact Information: Barbara Ross EPA/Seattle, 206-553-1985, ross.barbara@epa.gov - Mark MacIntyre, EPA/Seattle, 206-553-7302, macintyre.mark@epa.gov - Donn Moyer, WADOH/Olympia, 360-236-4376, Donn.Moyer@DOH.WA.GOV

(Seattle, Wash. – March 25, 2010) — Thanks to a $96,669 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Washington State Department of Health is mounting an investigation into the use of potentially deadly folk remedies.

Some home remedies used in the Hispanic community, such as azarcon and greta, often contain large amounts of lead. When parents give these remedies to children to help relieve a tummy ache, they unknowingly expose their children to lead.

The project will help locate children in the Hispanic community who are most likely to have elevated blood-lead levels from these remedies. The state health department will develop educational materials about the potential health risk of lead-laden home remedies as well as the safe alternatives.

According to Environmental Health Assistant Secretary Gregg Grunenfelder of the Washington Department of Health, this grant will help the agency assess the extent of the problem, educate parents about the hazards of lead, and encourage them to use safer remedies:

“This project will help vulnerable families keep their children safe from lead. Most children who have lead poisoning do not look or act sick. And while most lead exposure is from lead-based paint in older homes, it’s vital to learn about the risk from other sources like home remedies.” Grunenfelder added, “If you think your child may have been exposed to lead, talk to your child's health care provider about testing your child for lead.”

According to Barbara Ross, Regional Lead Coordinator with EPA’s Office of Air, Waste & Toxics in Seattle, this project will also help reduce lead poisoning (from sources other than paint) statewide.

“This grant is good news for Washington families,” Said EPA’s Ross. “It will enable the Department of Health to expand the excellent work they’re already doing to reduce health risks from toxic tainted folk remedies and offer a helping hand to environmental justice communities.”

For more about EPA’s work to reduce health risks from lead, go to: www.epa.gov/getleadsafe

For more about the Washington State Department of Health’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, go to: http://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/Lead