Natural Health Products: Really Safe?

  • Author: Melania Tesio
  • Published: 12 December 2012
  • Copyright: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
  • Source / Publisher: PLoS One/Public Library of Science
thumbnail image: Natural Health Products: Really Safe?

Natural health products and pharmaceutical preparations are widely consumed. Nevertheless, the contamination of these substances with toxic elements has called into question their safety. To determine whether this issue represents a health hazard for consumers, Stephen Genuis, University of Alberta, Canada, and colleagues quantified the daily exposure to different metals and metalloids (mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, aluminum, barium, antimony, thallium, tin and cesium) which contaminate numerous, commonly used, natural health products and pharmaceutical preparations.


The analysis revealed that various toxic elements were present in very low quantities in natural pharmaceutical preparations. On the contrary, mercury, arsenic, and aluminum were present in high concentrations in Chinese herbal products. Moreover, elevated amounts of lead contaminated marine-derived products. As a consequence, the daily exposure to these toxic elements reached levels exceeding the limits established by toxicological guidelines. These products may thus cause adverse effects in consumers.


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