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  Few orphans affected by tainted baby formula: Chinese orphanage survey
Family Helper editor

(Oct. 17, 2008)    A survey of 41 Chinese orphanages has found that most did not use brands of infant formula contaminated by melamine.

A dozen orphanages (see 5, below) were found to have fed their orphans tainted baby formula. A small proportion of children in those orphanages were affected as a result -- probably under 5% of those who got bad formula. The affected children were diagnosed with kidney stones but are not seriously ill. All are being treated.

The survey was conducted by Half the Sky Foundation, which runs Nurture Centers and Preschools for orphans in China. Half the Sky Foundation has been told that all orphanages using contaminated brands have changed to either fresh milk or a safe brand, and all of the affected children are being watched carefully.

For details on the melamine contamination, see the Family Helper article "22 tainted baby formulas banned in China".

Baby formula contaminated with melamine has been blamed for the deaths of four infants and causing about 54,000 children to fall ill in China. Chinese officials said on Oct. 15, 2008 that about 5,800 children are still in hospital as a result of ingesting melamine, six in serious condition. The Health Ministry in China has just issued guidelines on acceptable melamine levels in milk -- there was no standard before.

The advocacy group Joint Council on International Children's Services has released the following FAQ on contaminated infant formula. Some answers were provided by Dr. Dana Johnson of the International Adoption Clinic, University of Minnesota.

1) Why is this formula causing problems?

Infants have been sickened by Melamine, a toxic chemical that was added to milk to help boost the appearance of protein. Melamine is used in plastics, fertilizers and flame retardants. It has no nutritional value but is high in nitrogen, which makes the products appear to have higher protein content than they actually do. Suppliers to the dairy companies that produced the tainted baby formula have been accused of adding the chemical to watered-down milk.

2) How many children are affected?

According to a survey conducted by the Half the Sky Foundation in 41 Chinese institutions, a number of children are affected, although the number is probably less than 5% of those who received the tainted formula.

3) What are the symptoms of Melamine poisoning?

The affected infants primarily have uric acid kidney stones and not interstitial nephritis. If a child is affected, the symptoms would likely be lethargy and poor feeding, along with bloody urine. For kidney stones, it would be discomfort and bloody urine, though the condition could be asymptomatic.

4) What is China doing about the problem?

The Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs has been working to provide guidance to all the institutions that house infants in China. According to the Ministry, a letter was sent out to all orphanages as soon as the crisis was recognized. Orders were to have all children examined at local hospitals, and the government will cover all costs, including any necessary treatment. All orphanages using identified tainted brands have changed to either fresh milk or to a brand that has been identified as safe.

5) Which Chinese orphanages were affected?

Tianjin CWI was using Sanlu, among other brands. Forty children were drinking Sanlu and of those, 2 were diagnosed to have kidney stones.

Xinyang CWI was using Sanlu exclusively. 43 children were taken to hospital and 2 have been diagnosed to have kidney stones.

Yiyang SWC was using Sanlu exclusively. All children were taken to hospital and 5 were diagnosed to have kidney stones.

Maoming CWI was using Sanlu among other brands. All children were examined and 2 were diagnosed to have kidney stones.

Nanjing, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Guiyang, Guangzhou, Luoyang, Nanchang and Qingyuan were using affected brands but the children were examined and are all right.

None of the children with kidney stones is seriously ill. All are being treated. Most of the other institutions were using non-affected brands

6) What can parents do when visiting their child in China?

Those parents who see bloody urine should be concerned. If children display these symptoms in China, they can have kidney ultrasounds to see if kidney stones are present, as an x-ray would not visualize these.

7) What can parents do after returning home with their child?

In the US, a urinalysis is sufficient to identify those children at risk. If infants display symptoms, a kidney ultrasound would be advisable, along with perhaps a BUN/creatinine to look at the kidney function. Parents should consult with their adoption medical specialist. [See the list at International Adoption Medical Clinics.]

8) What are the possible long-term effects?

If the offending agent is removed, children should not be at risk of forming new kidney stones. There is some risk of permanent injury if children have interstitial injury in addition to forming the stones.

The Center for Adoption Medicine at the University of Washington has posted an article on melamine contamination in Chinese formula, including symptoms to watch for and the clinic's current treatment approach.

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"From Family Helper,"



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Updated Oct. 18, 2008

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