Fetal Lead Exposure from Ayurvedic Medications

August 27, 2012, 9:10 pm

★★★½☆

Lead Poisoning in Pregnant Women Who Used Ayurvedic Medications from India — New York City, 2011-2012. MMWR 2012 Aug 24;61:641-646.

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Fetal lead exposures carries increased risk of low birth weight, developmental delay, cognitive impairment, behavioral abnormalities, and miscarriage. Some traditional Ayurvedic medications from India — especially those of the “rasa shastra” type prepared with metals or mineral — have been found to contain lead, mercury, and/or arsenic. The CDC recommends that all pregnant women who use traditional remedies such as ayurvedic medications be tested for lead exposure.

This case series describes 6 asymptomatic pregnant women who had elevated lead levels (up to 64 μg/dL) on mandatory prenatal screening. All were using Ayurvedic medications made in India.

The discussion points out that foreign-born pregnant women might have elevated lead levels not only from current exposure, but also because the fetus’s need for calcium to support bone growth might release lead in the mother’s bones from previous use.

The authors recommend that health providers should:

  1. ask patients about use of nonprescription medications and supplements, including Ayurvedic preparations
  2. advise patients to stop using such products
  3. consider patients who use or have used these products for lead and other heavy metals

External link: Guidelines for the Identification and Management of Lead Exposure in Pregnant and Lactating Women (CDC)

 

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