NEW YORK, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Pregnant women should not use the morning sickness remedy calabash chalk, which may contain lead and arsenic, the New York City health department warns.
The product was recently found in local New York stores selling African remedies. The chalk-like substance -- also known as calabash clay, nzu, poto, calabar stone, mabele, argile or la craie -- can be sold as large pellets or in blocks that resemble clay or mud.
It is often packaged in clear plastic bags, with or without labeling. The remedy is used mainly by women from West African communities, health officials said.
"Using calabash chalk is unhealthy for pregnant women and their unborn children," Nancy Clark of the health department's Environmental Disease Prevention Bureau said in a statement. "The sale of these products is illegal. Anyone who has used calabash chalk should call the Poison Control Center at 212-POISONS (764-7667). The Poison Control Center does not check immigration status and its services are available in many languages."
The agency advises people to stop using the product immediately, keep it away from children, and ask a physician to request a blood-lead test. Store owners are directed to remove the product from shelves and post a sign advising customers to stop using the product.