Occurrence and Health Risk Assessment of Aflatoxins through Intake of Eastern Herbal Medicines Collected from Four Districts of Southern Punjab-Pakistan

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Sep 10;18(18):9531. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18189531.


Eastern herbal medicines (HMs) are plant-derived naturally occurring substances with minimum or no industrial processing that have long been used in traditional medicine. Aflatoxins are frequent contaminants of plants. Therefore, these mycotoxins are likely to contaminate HMs and pose a health risk to individuals using them on a regular basis as preventive or curative treatments of various diseases. The present study aimed to determine aflatoxin levels in the most popular Pakistani HM formulations and to assess the health risk associated with the intake of aflatoxins. A total of 400 samples of HM formulations collected from four districts of Punjab were analyzed for the quantification of aflatoxins, out of which 52.5% were found to be contaminated. The average daily dose (ADD) of AFB1 and AFs through the intake of HM formulations ranged between 0.00483 and 0.118 ng/kg bw/day and between 0.00579 and 1.714 ng/kg bw/day, respectively. The margin of exposure (MOE) and population cancer risk ranged from 99.49 to 29378.8 and from 0.00011 to 0.0325 liver cancer cases/105 individuals/year (0.0075-2.455 liver cancer cases/105 individuals/75 years), respectively. Despite the low exposure to aflatoxins from HM formulations in the four studied Punjab (Pakistan) districts, the frequent contamination of the analyzed samples suggests that official measures should be considered to manage the associated risk.

Keywords: Punjab; aflatoxin; cancer risk; exposure; health risk; herbal medicine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aflatoxins* / analysis
  • Food Contamination / analysis
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms*
  • Pakistan
  • Risk Assessment


  • Aflatoxins