This recent article from the Brownsville Herald took an AP report regarding high lead content of certain folk remedies, and combined it with local reporting on sources of lead poisoning in the Valley. The article centered on a specific incident in Houston to report on several dangerous folk remedies which all contain extremely high levels of lead, including:
- A generally Mexican folk remedy called greta, a yellow or bright orange powder that may be mixed with olive oil when given to treat diarrhea or stomach upset (“empacho“)
- Another generally Mexican folk remedy called azarcón (also known as coral, maría luisa, rueda, alarcón or liga), a orange powder which may also be mixed with olive oil and given to treat stomach ailments like empacho
- A generally Dominican folk remedy called litargirio, a yellow or peach-colored powder traditionally used for a variety of purposes including as a deodorant, foot fungicide, and burn or wound treatment
- A number of ayurvedic remedies common in South Asian immigrant communities, including ghasard and mahayogaraj gugullu
According to the article, nearly 20% of lead poisoning cases in Harris County are blamed on traditional medicines.
Although Brownsville Herald reporter Melissa McEver was unable to find any local retail stores that acknowledged selling greta or azarcón, the national version of the story (see this version from the AP) reported that Harris County investigators had found that some storekeepers would keep such remedies “behind the counter,” bringing them out only for known customers. McEver did, however, quote a Region 11 DSHS official who indicated that pottery and ceramic dishes were found to be a source in many local cases of lead poisoning.