AHPA raises voice against arsenic risk assessment

This months journal of Environmental Health Perspectives, published by the University of California Davis risk assessment, had mentioned that dietary herbal supplements, could lead to inadvertent arsenic toxicosis. This conclusion was arrived at, based on the case study of a 54 year old lady, who had a higher level of arsenic intake, which according to UC Davis was due to the kelp supplements that she had been taking.

This statement has raised severe opposition from the AHPA (American Herbal Products Association), and the AHPA in their letter to the journal mentions that “The authors fail to report that the product was used at two “ to at least four “ times the suggested amount of potential significance due to the naturally occurring presence of iodine in kelp.”

As per statement from the trade association, though each tablet has been labeled to contain 225mcg of iodine, the daily intake of kelp as per federal regulations, is limited to an amount which should not exceed 225 mcg of iodine.

The UC Davis researchers carried out test on three different sample batches among the nine supplements from certain local health food outlets. The arsenic content was then determined through ICP (Inductively Coupled argon Plasma) using identical hydride vapour generation method. As per their reports, the arsenic content found in those supplements varied from 1.59ppm to 65.5ppm by dry weight.

The risk assessment finally reached at their conclusion that based on various studies that demonstrates the dangerous levels of metals found in dietary herbal supplements, and the increasing number of case reports associated with heavy metal toxicities after ingestion of dietary herbal supplements, and based on the increasing popularity of herbal remedies among the general public, it is very important that the companies need to demonstrate the efficacy and safety of these products before placing them on the market.

While AHPA posits that the symptoms of the woman are associated with iodine toxicity, in its letter to the University, AHPA mentions that they do agree the marketers have the responsibility to control the level of harmful contaminants in herbal products, but, the case reports associated with supplements should not involve speculative science and inaccurate reporting.