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, 7 (11), e49676

Toxic Element Contamination of Natural Health Products and Pharmaceutical Preparations


Toxic Element Contamination of Natural Health Products and Pharmaceutical Preparations

Stephen J Genuis et al. PLoS One.


Background: Concern has recently emerged regarding the safety of natural health products (NHPs)-therapies that are increasingly recommended by various health providers, including conventional physicians. Recognizing that most individuals in the Western world now consume vitamins and many take herbal agents, this study endeavored to determine levels of toxic element contamination within a range of NHPs.

Methods: Toxic element testing was performed on 121 NHPs (including Ayurvedic, traditional Chinese, and various marine-source products) as well as 49 routinely prescribed pharmaceutical preparations. Testing was also performed on several batches of one prenatal supplement, with multiple samples tested within each batch. Results were compared to existing toxicant regulatory limits.

Results: Toxic element contamination was found in many supplements and pharmaceuticals; levels exceeding established limits were only found in a small percentage of the NHPs tested and none of the drugs tested. Some NHPs demonstrated contamination levels above preferred daily endpoints for mercury, cadmium, lead, arsenic or aluminum. NHPs manufactured in China generally had higher levels of mercury and aluminum.

Conclusions: Exposure to toxic elements is occurring regularly as a result of some contaminated NHPs. Best practices for quality control-developed and implemented by the NHP industry with government oversight-is recommended to guard the safety of unsuspecting consumers.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Figure 1
Figure 1. Use of Alternative medicine in relation to Conventional Medicine .

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Grant support

The authors have no support or funding to report.