Thomas Tank Engine Recall: Lead Paint on New Toys

Yikes. Nothing to do with “desi lead” but alarming nonetheless, especially if you have bought these for your children:

New York Times article on Thomas Tank Engine recall


June 15, 2007 at 3:12 pm Leave a comment

Danger may be lurking in your kitchen or prayer room

The article has been posted…

June 9, 2007 at 12:07 am Leave a comment

Lead Poisoning from Ayurvedic Medicines

Because the topic has been previously addressed in the publication, the following details will not be included in the article:

Because Ayurvedic medicines are regulated as supplements no proof of safety or efficacy is required. Dr. Robert Saper and others found that 20% – 1 in 5 – of Ayurvedic medicines from India sold in Boston area stores contained dangerous levels of lead, mercury and arsenic. Taken at recommended levels, each contaminated remedy found exceeds safe daily intake of these heavy metals. This especially affects remedies used to treat diabetes, arthritis, menstrual problems and infertility. 

Metals are in Ayurvedic remedies on purpose or from contaminated herbs. Ayurveda experts estimate that 35% to 40% of 6,000 Ayurvedic remedies intentionally contain heavy metals, but also claim that the metals are “detoxified” through heating/cooling cycles and combination with medicinal herbs. The frequency and severity of poisoning cases in the medical literature suggest otherwise.

Ayurvedic medicine-related lead poisoning has caused miscarriage, seizures, deafness, developmental delays, severe abdominal and arthritic pains and babies born paralyzed or stillborn.  At least 55 medical reports of severe lead poisoning from Ayurveda have been published. In California, a 9-month-old Indian baby died of lead poisoning after 7 months on Ghasard.

Of the 12 adult patients in the CDC’s MMWR, seven of these patients had levels over 80. The woman with the highest level (112) may have lost her baby due to poisoning from the fertility medicines she had taken for two months, one of which was 7.4% lead (73,900 ppm).

Paul Hunter, Director of the MA Department of Public Health Childhood Lead Prevention Program described a wheelchair-bound 4 ½-year-old Indian girl who was lead poisoned even though she could not have gotten into peeling paint or lead dust on the floor. Ayurdvedic treatments administered for her condition were found to be the culprit.

Since the July 2004 MMWR report was published CDC has continued to receive additional reports of “Ayurvedic” lead poisoning, and other cases have appeared in the literature, including a case where a baby was born lead poisoned.

As of Dr. Saper’s 2005 study, dangerously contaminated Ayurvedic medicines were available for sale at most of the South Asian grocery stores in the Boston area. These Medicines were recommended for children and adults and were inexpensive. The Saper study concluded:

Community organizations should consider issuing advisories to current or previous Ayurvedic (medicine) users, encouraging them to consult their physicians about heavy metal screening. Use of specific (medicines) in our study should be discouraged.”

The table below contains lead levels from a number of studies of Ayurvedic medicines. It is NOT a complete listing of which Ayurvedic remedies and ingredients may contain lead. It does not list other toxic heavy metal levels.




Lead level (ppm)


Keeping your family safe: Ayurvedic remedies:

It is especially urgent that anyone who has been using one of the medicines or ingredients on the list discontinue use and get tested. According to one expert with the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), there are safe, tested sources available in the US:


“There are various Ayurvedic companies based in the U.S. who have excellent quality control and their herbal products are tested for heavy metals and microbial contamination; their products are excellent.” — Hari Sharma, M.D., FRCP(C) Chair, AAPI Integrated Medicine Committee

 Any Ayurvedic remedy manufactured in India can be suspected of containing dangerous heavy metals. It is safest to discontinue these medicines, contact your doctor for heavy metal testing, and encourage your family in India to be tested.

If you experience abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting or anemia and have been taking any Ayurvedic remedy, seek immediate medical attention.

Be especially cautious using any Ayurvedic remedies in children, pregnant women and nursing mothers. Given that some Ayurvedic products are intended to treat infertility, women who are trying to become pregnant must be especially cautious. Contamination poses significant danger to children, and lead poisoning has legal implications. 

May 30, 2007 at 3:24 am Leave a comment

CDC MMWR Case: Man with back pain

After two visits to the ER for back and stomach pain, a 34 year-old man with a BLL of 80 was hospitalized, and it was learned that he was taking 10 different preparations to increase fertility. Two of these contained lead at 36 and 78,000 ppm.


Lead Poisoning Associated with Ayurvedic Medications, Five States, 2000-2003 MMWR (Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report July 9, 2004 53(26);582-584


May 25, 2007 at 3:32 am Leave a comment

CDC MMWR Case: Woman in CA who miscarried

Doctors in California treated a 31 year old woman for nausea, vomiting and stomach pain two weeks after a miscarriage. Her anemia resisted treatment with iron, so she was hospitalized and found to be severely lead poisoned at 112, or eleven times the “level of concern.” Three months prior, she had begun a regimen of 9 different Ayurvedic medicines for fertility. After two months she had an abnormal fetal ultrasound and discontinued the medicines, four of which contained lead at 21, 65, 285 and 73,900 ppm. Pushpadhanva, the medicine with the most lead, was prescribed to be taken 4 times a day.


Lead Poisoning Associated with Ayurvedic Medications, Five States, 2000-2003 MMWR (Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report July 9, 2004 53(26);582-584


May 25, 2007 at 3:31 am Leave a comment

CDC MMWR Case: Woman in NH

A woman in NH suffered 6 days of severe vomiting, nausea and stomach pain. The ER found that she was anemic and had a dangerously high blood lead level of 81. Testing showed that the five Ayurvedic she was taking contained 60-100, 12,000 and 17,000 ppm lead. With treatment her blood lead level was reduced to 35 (still toxic, but not emergency poisoning levels). Two years later she was back at the doctor with pain and anemia. She had re-started the Ayurvedic medication and was lead poisoned at a level of 64.


Lead Poisoning Associated with Ayurvedic Medications, Five States, 2000-2003 MMWR (Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report July 9, 2004 53(26);582-584

May 25, 2007 at 3:29 am Leave a comment

What is this?

Information and resources to accompany feature article on lead risks in everyday products used by South Asian families. Common household products including kum kum (sindoor), kohl (surma/sirma), incense, Ayurvedic remedies and even powdered culinary spices either contain lead or carry a substantial risk of lead contamination. Ayurvedic remedies may also contain other toxic metals such as mercury, arsenic.

The levels of lead in these products are high enough to pose substantial risks of lead poisoning to children and adults who use them.

As the article is being written, additional links, resources and references will be posted here.

May 20, 2007 at 2:13 pm Leave a comment

Author’s Blog and Website

This site and the Desi Lead article were created by Laura Athavale Fitton of Pistachio Consulting who writes the Great Presentations Mean Business blog.