The Texas Department of State Health Services is warning consumers not to use a traditional morning sickness remedy called Nzu, because it may contain high levels of lead and arsenic. Anyone who has been using Nzu should contact their health care provider.
Nzu was recently found at two African specialty stores – one in the Dallas area and one in Houston. It was also found at a distributor in Houston. Lab analysis of Nzu revealed that it contained high levels of lead and arsenic.
Exposure to lead can result in a number of harmful effects, and a developing child is particularly at risk of effects on the brain and nervous system. Arsenic is a carcinogen, and excessive long-term exposure to it has been associated with a range of adverse health effects, including cancers of the urinary bladder, lung and skin.
According to a press release from the Texas Department of State Health Services, Nzu generally resembles balls of clay or mud and also is called Calabash clay, Calabar stone, Mabele, Argile and La Craie. The Nzu may be covered in a brown or white “dust” and is usually sold in small plastic bags with a handwritten label identifying it as “Nzu” or “Salted Nzu.”