Lead poisoning caused by kohl products is an underestimated problem in French speaking areas, believes J P De Caluwé at the Hospital IRIS Sud in Brussels, Belgium.
In an article published in the Journal Français d’Ophtalmologie, De Caluwé states that the lead content of various traditionally used kohl products can vary from almost nothing to around 80 per cent.
In addition, to dangers related to lead poisoning, the article cites other potential problems such as allergic reactions and eye infections related to kohl use.
Education not regulation
India and Pakistan are the biggest producers of kohl which is then brought into Europe and North America by family and friends, according to the study.
As the movement of the substance is not linked to official importers and distributors, De Caluwé believes official legislation against it would be futile.
In addition, the practice is extremely old, dating back to Ancient Egypt, and according to De Caluwé using kohl as an eye cosmetic is a strong family tradition and pressure to continue is significant.
He suggests an education programme that could inform young women and children, and equally health workers, of the dangers of prolonged kohl use and the potential complications.
In addition, he suggests that manufacturers of the substance should be encouraged to substitute lead sulphide with other black pigments.
Source: Journal Français d’Ophtalmologie
DOI : 10.1016/j.jfo.2009.06.005
Intoxication saturnine provoquée par l’usage prolongé de khôl, une cause sous-estimée dans les pays francophones
J.-P. De Caluwé