China Melamine Scandal Affects American Adoptions

The ongoing and far-reaching China <"">melamine scandal, in which tainted milk powder killed at least six children and sickened nearly 300,000, has spread to another group:  Adopted Chinese children now living in the U.S.  Children exposed to China-produced formula in 2007 and 2008 are of particular concern.

The group Families with Children from China recently sent a letter to parents and adoptive advocates regarding the melamine catastophe stating that, based on information derived from the American Academy of Pediatrics, there is no consensus on the impact of melamine on Chinese babies.  The group noted that some physicians are advising that any child who ever lived in China be tested, while others suggest only testing children exhibiting symptoms of melamine contamination.  The group also stated that the AAP Section on Adoption and Foster Care, the American Society of Pediatric Nephrology, and others are investigating the matter and hoping to reach accord.  Tests for kidney disease include blood and urine screening and renal ultrasound testing.

Melamine is an industrial chemical used in the manufacture of fertilizer, fire retardants, and plastics and has been at the center of a global scandal originating in China over the adulturation of a wide variety of food products with a variety of contaminants.  In particular, melamine has been used in that country to falsify protein levels.  Because melamine contains such high nitrogen contents, it can be used to make certain foods—for instance intentionally diluted milk products and baby formula—appear high in protein in certain tests, enabling producers and manufacturers to pass off sub-standard products as protein-rich.  The melamine milk scandal first broke after tens of thousands of Chinese babies were sickened, hospitalized, or died as a result of melamine contamination, which can lead to kidney problems such as kidney stones and kidney failure and, in the case of at least six of the babies, death.

The American Academy of Pediatrics for China Adoptive Families also issued a letter stating that, so far, it has heard from three families whose children were diagnosed with kidney stones; two of the adoptions occurred as far back as 2005.  The group contacted adoptive medicine specialist Dr. Dana Johnson at the University of Minnesota’s International Adoption Medical Clinic.  Johnson then contacted the Adoption and Foster Care section of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which advised that “… the consensus is to do urinalysis and BUN/Creatanine on all children adopted from China from 2005 onward and if abnormal, get a renal ultrasound.”

The Associated Press has also reported on cases of parents being advised by their adoption agencies regarding melamine in Chinese baby formula.  In one such case, the baby had no symptoms, but was found—via ultrasound—to have two kidney stones.  Symptoms can include, said the AP, blood in the urine, kidney pain, and unexplained crying, to name a few.  The AP also pointed out that some orphanages using so-called safe formulas might have supplemented their formula with donated formula that could have been tainted.

Although initial figures indicated about 50,000 children fell ill from melamine contamination, the Chinese government finally released information confirming that nearly 300,000 babies fell ill in that country with urinary and kidney problems linked to melamine tainting.

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