What is the issue?
NSW Health was recently notified of a child with a mildly elevated blood lead level who had been prescribed the Ayurvedic medicine, Manasmithra Vatika. Laboratory analysis of a sample found that it contained lead and other heavy metals, which are currently being assessed. This Ayurvedic medicine is known both locally and internationally to be contaminated with heavy metals including lead.
Who is at risk?
Children and pregnant women are most at risk from lead exposure. The health effects from exposure to lead depend on a number of factors including:
- a person’s age
- how much lead they are exposed to and for how long
- if they have other health conditions.
Acute lead poisoning is very serious and is usually caused by a recent exposure to a high amount of lead. The symptoms may include:
- stomach pains
- nausea and vomiting
Extremely high blood lead levels can cause long-term organ damage and even death. A person who is exposed to smaller amounts of lead over a longer time period may have symptoms such as:
- behavioural problems
- lack of energy
- raised blood pressure
- loss of appetite
- poor coordination.
The symptoms of low-level exposure can be hard to detect particularly in children but can still cause long term harm. Many of the symptoms above could be caused by other conditions.
People taking the Ayurvedic medication ‘Manasmithra Vatika’ (Manasamitram Pills), should stop immediately and speak with their GP about blood lead testing. Further information is being gathered about the composition of the medicine to understand the risks from other contaminants.
Anyone taking Manasmithra Vatika is welcome to contact the DHHS Environment Section on 1300 761 874 to discuss any concerns they may have.
Victorian Poisons Information Centre Tel. 13 11 26 – for advice when poisoning or suspected poisoning occurs and for poisoning prevention information (24 hours, 7 days).
Frequently Asked Questions, NHMRC Information Paper: Evidence on the Effects of Lead on Human Health (May 2015)
(NHMRC) Managing individual exposure to lead in Australia - A guide for health practitioners (April 2016)
For more information about lead exposure and health: Better Health Channel - Lead exposure and your health
For more information about complementary therapies and safety and legal issues:
Better Health Channel - Complementary therapies - safety and legal issues
For more information please contact the DHHS Environmental Health Policy and Risk Management Unit on 1300 761 874.