Pregnant women with morning sickness have been told to visit their GP by public health experts, after a nutritional supplement marketed to reduce symptoms was found to contain high levels of heavy metals.
The warning from Public Health England comes after they received reports pregnant women in Asian and African communities in London were using ‘calabash chalk’ to treat their morning sickness.
The treatment – also known as Argile, La Craie, Mabele, Nzu or Shiley – was recently seized by environmental health officers and was shown to have elevated levels of the metals lead and arsenic.
Public Health England said that women with severe morning sickness should visit their GP or midwife to discuss suitable treatment.
Dr Yvonne Doyle, regional director for PHE London, said: ‘It is of great concern to us that pregnant women may be taking these chalk products as a nutritional supplement during pregnancy.
‘Exposure to heavy metals, like lead, should be kept as low as practically possible under all circumstances, but particularly during pregnancy when the risk of adverse effects is large.
‘We strongly advise against taking any medicinal or “remedy” product while pregnant without talking to your GP or health visitor about the health risk.’