Table salt seen as likely cause of mass bromide poisoning in Angola – UN agency
Contaminated table salt has been identified as the most likely cause of nearly 500 cases of bromide poisoning that led to an outbreak of a mysterious neurological illness in Angola, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reported today.
Toxicological tests conducted in Germany and the United Kingdom have detected “very high levels” of bromide, an industrial chemical, in the blood samples of patients, while separate tests in Germany and Switzerland have found similarly high levels of sodium bromide in samples of table salt from the households of patients. Table salt should contain sodium chloride.
Health authorities in Cacuaco municipality, where the outbreak was centred, had confirmed 468 cases of bromide poisoning as of yesterday. The municipality is located in the suburbs of the capital, Luanda.
Patients have reported symptoms that include extreme drowsiness, dizziness and a loss of muscle control. Although most patients recover slowly over a number of days, many remain unable to walk without assistance. Children suffer the strongest symptoms.
WHO has been helping Angolan health officials carry out further epidemiological studies, environmental tests, laboratory analysis, a public awareness campaign and a salt replacement scheme.
“It is still unknown how the salt samples were contaminated,” the agency said in a media statement. “Additional food samples are currently being analyzed to identify any potential secondary source of exposure.”