Beware of Counterfeits that Contain Lead And Mercury

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Beware of Counterfeits that Contain Lead And Mercury

June 2006

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) today warned New Yorkers against the use of certain herbal medicine products made in China containing high levels of lead and mercury.

While there are not specific federal standards about lead and mercury content, the Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board recommends that certain food additives contain no more than 2 parts per million (ppm) of lead and no more than 1 ppm of mercury. Samples of the following products were found to contain very high levels of both lead and mercury:

(Concentrated) [Tian Huang Bu Xin Wan] Made by Lanzhou Traditional Herbs in China, contains 5,400 ppm lead and 950 ppm mercury. Labeled use: "helps maintain the body's natural balance."

Hepatico Extract (Concentrated) [Shu Gan Wan] Made by Lanzhou Traditional Herbs in China, contains 1,100 ppm lead and 3,600 ppm mercury. Labeled use: "helps promote a healthy liver and maintain regularity."

DOHMH was informed about these products during an investigation of a case of lead poisoning in a New York City resident. New Yorkers are urged NOT TO USE any products known to contain lead or mercury. Lead and mercury are poisonous metals that can damage the brain, nervous system, reproductive system, kidneys and/or other parts of the body. Children and pregnant women (and their fetuses) are especially at risk.

DOHMH is working with distributors and retail storeowners to remove these products from their shelves. The sale of products deemed to contain poisonous substances or to be detrimental to human health is prohibited under New York City Health Code.

DOHMH has ordered distributors and storeowners where these products are sold to:

  • Immediately stop selling Emperor's Tea Pill (Concentrated) [Tian Huang Bu Xin Wan] and Hepatico Extract (Concentrated) [Shu Gan Wan], both made by Lanzhou Traditional Herbs, and remove them from shelves and inventory stockrooms.
  • Recall all of the above-mentioned products from retailers to whom the products were sold.
  • Post a warning sign advising customers to discontinue use of these products.


DOHMH advises people who may have obtained and used these products to:

  • Immediately stop using these products.
  • Call a physician to request a blood lead test and mercury urine test.
  • Keep products away from children.
  • Return products to store where they were purchased.
  • Call 311 or 212-POISONS (212-764-7667) for additional information or to report locations where these products are sold.

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