Breastfeeding :: Calabash chalk may pose health risk for pregnant and breastfeeding women

Health Canada is advising Canadians, especially pregnant and breastfeeding women, not to use Calabash chalk because of the potential health risk due to high levels of lead.

Calabash chalk is ingested by some pregnant women to alleviate morning sickness; it is traditionally used by women from African communities. Calabash chalk is usually sold in the form of blocks, pellets or as powders.

The product is generally sold loose, and there are no particular brands, batch numbers/codes or best before dates.

Testing of calabash chalk revealed that it contained lead and arsenic. Exposure to lead may result in a number of harmful effects, and a developing child is particularly at risk of adverse effects on the nervous system, and neurological development. Excessive long term exposure to arsenic has been associated with various adverse health effects in humans, including cancers of the urinary bladder, lung and skin.

Anyone who has been ingesting calabash chalk and is concerned about their health should contact their health care practitioner. Calabash chalk is not authorized for sale in Canada. Health Canada advises retailers to remove the product from their shelves. Consumers should return the product to the place of purchase.

Drugs and natural health products that are authorized for sale in Canada will have an eight-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN), a Natural Product Number (NPN) or a Homeopathic Medicine Number (DIN-HM) on the label. These numbers indicate that the products have been assessed by Health Canada for safety, effectiveness and quality.

Consumers requiring more information about this advisory can contact Health Canada’s public enquiries line at (613) 957-2991, or toll free at 1-866-225-0709.

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