The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) warns consumers not to use a folk remedy designed to relieve the symptoms of morning sickness. This product is called by several names including “Nzu”, “Poto” or “Calabash Chalk”. These products may be sold as a large pellet or in bulk and they resemble clay.
HEALTH’s laboratory testing has confirmed elevated levels of lead and unsafe levels of arsenic in these products. (Samples that were tested showed lead levels ranging from 5 ppm to 29 ppm.) These products were found at God Is Able African Market (743 Cranston Street), Jamal and Jamel Variety Store (750 Cranston Street), Cranston Variety (306 Cranston Street) and Toofs Market (611 Charles Street).
HEALTH has removed these products from shelves at the above-named stores. Any other store that carries these products should stop selling them immediately. Any consumer who has purchased this product should discard the product and stop using it.
Lead exposure is of special concern to pregnant women and young children because it can inhibit development of the nervous system, affecting intelligence and behavior. Concerns about the safety of this product were identified by the Childhood Lead Action Project .
“Lead can be present in a wide variety of consumer goods, especially those imported,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Calabash Chalk is just one example of a preventable source of lead exposure. This also serves as a reminder that families need to make sure that all young children are screened for lead poisoning.”
Families with questions about lead exposure can call HEALTH’s Information Line at 222-5960/RI Relay 711.