The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) has banned at least three herbal medicine products produced in India, for containing "dangerous levels" of lead and mercury.
"Though there are no specific federal standards, the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recommends that certain food additives contain no more than 2 ppm (parts per million) of lead and no more than 1 ppm of mercury," the DOHMH said in a release.
The three medicines identified by the deparment are - Jambrulin (24,300 ppm of Lead), made by Unjha Ayurvedic Pharmacy and used for diabetes and sugar control; Lakshmivilash Ras (Nardiya) (14,100 ppm of mercury), made by Baidyanath and used for chronic fever, cold, and cough; and Maha Sudarshan (2,190 ppm of mercury) made by Arya Aushadhi Pharmaceutical Works and used for flu and body ache.
As part of the investigation that began this summer, DOHMH officials visited retail stores serving South Asian residents and purchased Indian products that had been identified in recent research studies and case reports as containing lead or mercury.
"Laboratory tests showed that the above products, purchased in stores in Jackson Heights and Flushing, contain dangerous levels of lead or mercury. Lead and mercury were not listed on the products as ingredients. The sale of products deemed to contain poisonous substances or to be detrimental to human health is prohibited under New York City Health Code," the department said.It said in the past year there have been three confirmed cases of adult lead poisoning among New York City residents who used products they obtained from India.
"These lead poisoning cases reported that they obtained the tainted products while visiting India or from friends and family living in India," the DOHMH said.
"We urge New Yorkers not to use any products known to contain lead or mercury," said DOHMH Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden, was quoted as saying.
"These metals are poisons and can cause damage to the brain, nervous system, and kidneys. Children and pregnant women (and their foetuses) are especially at risk. If you or your children have used these products, immediately call a physician to request a blood lead test and urine mercury test," he said.
The DOHMH has embargoed these products and has ordered store owners where these products are sold to immediately stop selling them.
The sellers have also been ordered to package and return these products to the distributors. They have also been asked to provide the DOHMH information on the distributors who sold the products to the stores.
"Failure to provide the required information will result in the immediate seizure of the embargoed products," it said.
The department has also ordered the stores to post a sign in the stores to advise customers to discontinue use of these products and to see a physician if they have used them.
The department has advised people who may have obtained these products to immediately stop using these products, call a physician to request a blood lead test and mercury urine test and keep products away from children.