Heavy metal warning for Ayurvedic medicinal products

Health Canada warns Ayurvedic medicinal products from India may contain dangerous levels of lead, mercury and arsenic.

People who take Ayurvedic medicinal products should be aware that the products may contain dangerous levels of lead, mercury or arsenic, Health Canada warned Friday.

Several commercially available Ayurvedic products sold in the Boston area contained potentially harmful levels of heavy metals, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Other studies have found high levels of heavy metals in Ayurvedic products sold in England and India, the department noted.

None of the products listed are currently authorized for sale in Canada, but Health Canada suspects at least three may be available in parts of country.

Health Canada tests showed one product, called Safi made by Hamdard (Wakf) Laboratories, contained arsenic levels more than 40 times the maximum allowable limit.

The Safi product is available in liquid form, packaged in a lime green box, with a black and red label on both the front and back.

Consumers are advised not to use the product, which is sold as a blood purifier for skin diseases and digestive problems.

Ayurvedic medicinal products are often imported from India, where they are used in traditional Indian healing. Practitioners and followers believe the heavy metals in the products carry therapeutic value.

Western scientists say heavy metals pose a health risk because they accumulate in vital organs. Children are particularly susceptible to heavy metal poisoning.

The department said it was reviewing the results of the JAMA study. Health Canada is also assessing if the other products listed are available in Canada.

Consumers who used any of the products listed and have concerns about their health should contact a health-care professional, the department advised.

Health Canada describes the products tested in the JAMA study on its website.