The Taichung Health Bureau yesterday suspended operations at a Chinese medicine clinic for a month and fined the owner, after a preliminary investigation into the lead poisoning of Taichung City Councilor Chang Yen-tung’s (張彥彤) family indicated the source was herbal medicine prescribed for them at the clinic.
Chang on Thursday said that he had become critically ill after being treated by the clinic and was diagnosed with multiple organ failure.
He, his sister and parents all reportedly suffered from lead poisoning, he said.
Photo: Tsai Shu-yuan, Taipei Times
Chang on Friday said that blood tests showed that his lead level was 88 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL), nearly nine times the normal level of 10 mcg/dL for an adult, while his father’s was 367mcg/dL.
His sister and parents are still hospitalized, he said.
The health bureau on Thursday collected samples of the herbal medicine powder the Chang family had taken from the clinic for examination, and on Friday said the powder contained high levels of lead and that it had filed a legal charges against the owner of the clinic.
The bureau yesterday said its examinations on the traditional medicinal powder from the clinic show that its cinnabar, which is a prohibited medicinal material, had a lead concentration of up to 15,281 parts per million (ppm), about 509 times the maximum allowable level of 30ppm.
Although the Taichung Prosecutors’ Office is still investigating the incident, Taichung Health Bureau Director Tseng Tzu-chan (曾梓展) said the clinic’s owner has been fined NT$100,000 for not truthfully registering medicinal ingredients on patients’ medical records.
The owner could also be fined up to NT$500,000 under the Physicians Act (醫師法) if they are found to have prescribed prohibited medicinal material to patients, Tzeng said.
Hung Tung-jung (洪東榮), a doctor in China Medical University’s toxicology department, on Saturday said that the public should ensure that prescribed Chinese herbal medicine is from manufacturers awarded the good manufacturing practice (GMP) certificate and should not take products or herbal medicine from dubious sources.
Lead poisoning could cause irritation of the bowels and stomach, stomach pain, constipation, an inflamed liver or jaundice, and could also affect the sensory and motor nerve systems, Hung said.
In the late stages of lead poisoning, a person could develop unsteadiness or other problems walking, muscle atrophy, or complete paralysis, Hung said.
Additional reporting by CNA and Tsai Shu-yuan
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