Lead poisoning in Turkish women due to “lead pouring”: A traditional practice




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Peer reviewed


Question: Pouring molten lead into water and predicting, from the shape formed, the future of a person to diagnosis and treatment of disease has been practiced in many cultures across the world. In Turkish society, lead pouring is used to mainly avert the evil eye and, to a lesser extent, avoid the “kırk basması” or “albasması” that is a belief, some living or non-living things can harm lactating women and their babies. In lead pouring process, “ocak healers” melt a piece of lead in a spoon or pan over heat. The molten lead is poured into a pot of cold water above the person's head who sits on his/her knees under a sheet. When molten lead is exposed to water, it crackles and pops and various shapes are formed. Then, “ocak healers” interpret to predict the physical properties of the person who would have the evil eye by looking at the shapes. The current study was undertaken to ascertain whether the ocak healers were at risk from lead and some other toxic metal exposure as it is practiced indoors in poorly ventilated houses. Methods: Blood samples of three lead pouring ocak healers were collected for whole blood metal analysis with Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS). Results: Surprisingly, blood antimony levels of all ocak healers were found almost three times higher than reference value. However, blood lead, arsenic and cadmium levels were lower than reference values. Conclusion: Antimony but not lead poisoning should be considered in lead pouring ocak healers. We have demonstrated there is a risk of heavy metal exposure from this traditional practice and public health bodies need to take steps to protect the health of these healers, who are mainly women, and possibly the health of their unborn babies.




Kaya-Akyüzlü, D., Kayaaltı, Z., Balcıoğlu, E., Bal, C., Targan, P. and Haris, P.I. (2015) Lead poisoning in Turkish women due to “lead pouring”: A traditional practice. Toxicology Letters, 238(2), p.S101.


Research Institute