04 August 2010
Warning on lead poisoning from imported traditional Indian (Ayurvedic) medicine
NSW Health is warning the community to be careful if taking traditional Ayurvedic medicine purchased from India, following the recent hospitalisation of a man with lead poisoning.
The middle-aged man took a traditional Ayurvedic medicine purchased directly by phone from India after reading an advertisement in an on-line Indian newspaper. Over a period of several months he became ill. He presented to Campbelltown Hospital with pain and vomiting, and was found to have very high levels of blood lead (87 ug/dl).
According to the Public Health Unit Director of Sydney South West Area Health Service, Dr Stephen Conaty, testing of a sample of the Ayurvedic medicine showed that it contained high levels of mercury, arsenic and especially high levels of lead. The medicine contained 2.3% lead by weight.
Dr Stephen Conaty said the man was lucky not to have suffered more serious toxic effects after recording blood lead levels almost nine times the blood lead level considered acceptable.
“Problems with the heavy metal content of traditional Ayurvedic medicine manufactured in India have been previously described both in Australia and the United States,” Dr Conaty said.
“When ordering traditional medicines from overseas, people need to bear in mind that no assurance can be given regarding their safety, quality or effectiveness.
“If you’ve experienced unusual side-effects during or after taking traditional especially Ayurvedic medicine purchased from India, visit your GP for an assessment and possible blood test,” he added.
There are no regulatory provisions that prevent purchase of medicinal products from other countries unless they are prohibited imports, contain dangerous poisons (including lead or arsenic) or are narcotics. Complementary medicines sold in Australia are subject to regulation by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
For further information on buying medicines over the internet, visit The National Prescribing Service website:
For a range of health information, go online to www.health.nsw.gov.au