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Soc Sci Med. 1998 Nov;47(9):1263-6.

Mexican use of lead in the treatment of empacho: community, clinic, and longitudinal patterns.

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  • 1Department of Anthropology, University of South Florida, Tampa 33620, USA.


This paper discusses research designed to investigate community, clinic, and longitudinal patterns in use of lead as a treatment for empacho, a folk illness manifest by gastrointestinal symptoms. The same questionnaire used in a clinic-based study seven years previously in Guadalajara, Mexico, was used to interview a randomly selected community sample: in addition, the study was repeated at the same clinic sites that had been studied previously. The goals were to investigate: (1) What are community wide prevalences of empacho and use of lead based remedies? (2) To what extent are current patterns of use of lead for treatment of empacho in clinic-based samples similar to those seven years ago. The attributable risk to the population as a whole from use of lead based remedies was found to be 11% of the households of Guadalajara. Essentially this same estimate was seen for the 1987 and 1994 clinic populations. Interestingly, while percentages of lead users have declined since 1987, twice as great a percentage of informants reported treating empacho. Other patterns originally identified in 1987 persisted in 1994; lead use continues to be associated with lower levels of parental education and income.

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