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Low Doses of Melamine Won't Harm Kids' Kidneys

Hong Kong researchers found most of those exposed to tainted products were OK

THURSDAY, Dec. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Low doses of melamine did not cause severe kidney problems in children exposed to the industrial chemical during the recent tainted milk scandal in China, Hong Kong researchers report.

The study is one of the first to measure the health impact of exposure to low doses of melamine, which was added to infant formula and other foods in mainland China to boost their protein content and help them pass muster on food-quality tests. Contaminated products were also sold in Hong Kong, but the researchers noted that those products contained much lower concentrations of melamine than the tainted products sold in mainland China.

Since early September, melamine-contaminated baby formula has sickened more than 54,000 children in China and is being blamed for at least four deaths. This latest finding suggests that the chances of the severe problems that occurred in China happening elsewhere are slim.

The chemical has turned up in dairy products sold across Asia and, to a lesser extent, in Europe and the United States. It has been detected in candies, chocolates and coffee drinks. Authorities in California and Connecticut found melamine in White Rabbit candies imported from China. There have been no reports of illness from contaminated Chinese milk products in the United States, health officials have said.

Last October, U.S. health officials said no amount of melamine is safe in infant formula. For all other foods, only amounts less than 2.5 parts per million are risk-free, U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials said at the time.

In the Hong Kong study, reported in this week's issue of BMJ, researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong examined slightly more than 3,000 children aged 12 or younger. All of them had consumed melamine-tainted products for a month or more. Every child was given a urine test, and an ultrasound was performed on their kidneys. Only one child had a kidney stone, and seven had possible melamine-related deposits in their kidneys. An additional 208 tested positive for blood in their urine, a possible sign of kidney troubles.

More information

To learn more, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

--HealthDay staff

SOURCE: BMJ, news release, Dec. 17, 2008

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