Severe congenital lead poisoning in a preterm infant due to a herbal remedy

Paul A Tait, Amish Vora, Simon James, D James Fitzgerald and Beverly A Pester
Med J Aust 2002; 177 (4): 193-195.

Chronic lead poisoning may manifest clinically as abdominal pain, constipation, proteinuria, haematuria, peripheral neuropathy and muscle weakness.1 With more significant lead poisoning, encephalopathy may occur.2 Sustained blood lead levels of over 0.5 μmol/L in early childhood are likely to be associated with intellectual underperformance.3 However, congenital lead poisoning and its subsequent management has rarely been reported in preterm infants.

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  • Paul A Tait1
  • Amish Vora2
  • Simon James3
  • D James Fitzgerald4
  • Beverly A Pester5

  • 1 Pharmacy Department, Women's and Children's Hospital, North Adelaide, SA.
  • 2 Neonatal Unit, Flinders Medical Centre, Bedford Park, SA.
  • 3 Environmental Health Branch, Department of Human Services, Adelaide, SA.


The authors gratefully acknowledge Dr Stephen Rothenberg, of Charles Drew University, Los Angeles, for discussion of fetal and maternal blood lead levels; Mike Stevenson, of Berri/Barmera Council, for the environmental audit; Sam Mangas, for assistance with the source investigation; and Bill Dollman and Dr Brian Priestly, for discussions on the regulation of herbal remedies in Australia.

Competing interests:

None identified.

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