HC Deb 07 March 1955 vol 538 cc19-20
9. Mr. Swingler

asked the Minister of Health if he has considered the recent case, to which his attention has been drawn, of a baby's death from mercury poisoning; and what action he will take concerning the supply of tablets containing mercury to infants.

Miss Hornsby-Smith

Yes, Sir. While my right hon. Friend is advised that mercurial preparations have a proper place in medical treatment, his medical officers have already suggestedto medical officers of health that powders containing mercury should be issued from child welfare clinics only on medical advice and with precise instructions. He will consider further whether to suggest that these preparations should cease to be available at clinics at all.

Mr. Swingler

While thanking the Parliamentary Secretary for that reply, is she aware that there have been several disturbing cases of babies' deaths from mercury poisoning in the last 18 months, sometimes mercury derived from teething powders and sometimes tablets? In addition to the action proposed, does she not agree that some general public warning might be sent out by the Minister's medical advisers in view of the public concern created by recent inquests?

Miss Hornsby-Smith

I think that the general publicity, particularly in professional journals, and advice given by the Minister's medical officers of health made this clear. I should like to make it plain that if they were not given by clinics that would not interfere with the right of a doctor to prescribe a preparation in which it was included.

Dr. Stross

Has the hon. Lady any information to give to the House as to whether there is a definite association between the giving of these powders and tablets containing mercury and the disease called "Pink Disease," which is so often lethal to children?

Miss Hornsby-Smith

I think that the hon. Member had better put down another Question. So far as this particular case was concerned, the coroner's verdict was "Accidental death caused by Pink Disease," but it was not certain that it was attributable to the particular tablets given.

Forward to