“One Package of Flu Medication…Unleaded, Please.”

On April 16, 2015, the Suffolk County Commissioner of Health Services, Dr. James Tomarken, warned parents that a powdered product marketed to treat influenza, fever, sneezing and nasal discharge in infants and children may contain excessive levels of lead. The product, Bo Ying Compound, is manufactured by Eu Yan Sang (Hong Kong) Ltd., is labeled in Chinese and English, and is marketed in retail outlets and online. “Parents and caregivers should not use Bo Ying Compound, Commissioner Tomarken said, “due to the potential risk of lead poisoning.” “Those caregivers who have the product in their homes should discard it, and those who may have already given Bo Ying Compound to their children should consult a health care provider for evaluations and possible blood lead testing,” the Commissioner stated. The warning was apparently prompted by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene having found elevated lead levels in samples taken from two stores in the state. In 2014, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene received a report of lead poisoning in an 18-month-old child who was given Bo Ying Compound. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene analyzed samples of this product collected in New York City and also found elevated levels in the product.

The CDC has stated that “no safe blood lead level in children has been identified.” It estimates that approximately one-half million U.S. children between the ages of 1 and 5 have blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL), the reference point at which the agency recommends that public health actions be initiated. Exposure to lead has long been believed to cause serious damage to the central nervous system, the kidneys and the immune system. In children (whose brains and nervous systems are developing), chronic exposure to lead, even at low levels, is associated with impaired cognitive function, including reduced IQ, behavioral difficulties, and other problems.