TESTING, QUANTITATIVE DETECTION, SCREENING AND ANALYSIS OF HEAVY METALS, POISONS, TOXIC ELEMENTS LIKE LEAD MERCURY ARSENIC CHROMIUM CADMIUM ETC PRESENT IN AYURVEDIC DRUGS, AYUSH MEDICINES, HERBAL PRODUCTS ETC BY ICP
This article is intended to -
1. Explain the benefits of ICP technology to test and quantify heavy metals vis-a-vis classical TLC or Physico-Chemical methods which suffer limitations of matrix effects, detection limits and analysts' perceptional bias of visible colour spectra.
2. Educate consumers to purchase from authentic, licensed and reputed sources under expert guidance
3. Enlighten that if you are using a product over extended periods of time, get it tested. It costs much less than a transplant!
In the recent past, we have been inundated with reports of the presence and deleterious effects of Heavy Metals - some speculative, others factual. While the 'noodle controversy' generated a lot of heat initially, the intervention of the Supreme Court which ordered close to 15000 samples from across the country be drawn and tested as per international standards at reputed and recognized centers revealed beyond reasonable doubt that the levels were within prescribed limits at least with respect to the batches tested.
However, in the case of Heavy Metal toxic elements in Ayurvedic/Herbal products, no such closure was achieved, primarily because -
1. Heavy Metal analysis is very rarely if at all carried out by the manufacturer or insisted upon by the regulator for every batch and/or raw material
2. Classical techniques prescribed by API and adopted by public labs are multi-step and elaborate having too many variables affecting accuracy and even the best trained and most qualified Analysts can only do one or two samples in a day and still get it wrong!
3. Bhasmas (Minerals & naturally occurring heavy metals) form an intrinsic part of Ayurveda. However, it is pertinent to point out here that by definition and property they are chemically inert and thereby cannot be solubilized or digested if prepared as-per prescribed texts. By implication, no destructive analytical technique can detect its metallic or mineral composition. Clearly, reports indicate that this is not the case.
At RATL we tested over a 100 market samples of various Herbal-Ayurvedic products (provided by the Indic Centre located on our campus) across seven popular categories - Asava, Bhasma, Choorna, Ghrita, Kashaya, Proprietary Medicine and Tablets/Capsules for five major heavy metal toxic elements - Lead(Pb), Mercury(Hg), Arsenic(As), Chromium(Cr), Cadmium(Cd) and the results were an eye opener. Over 70% had heavy metals like Lead, Mercury, Arsenic which were 2-1000 times the permitted toxic limit!
The methodology adopted was as-per US Pharmacopoeial sections <232>, <233> by ICP to ensure the validity of the results was beyond doubt. Technical competency was established by participating in national and international (APLAC) PT program and by aspirating spiked NIST traceable CRS from Sigma/Merck.
Evaluation was carried out on a Thermo-Fisher Scientific ICAP series instrument, the international gold standard for ultra-trace elemental analysis with highest sensitivity and selectivity for heavy metals analysis in the world today.
TABLE WITH THE AYURVEDIC PREPARATIONS AND THE HEAVY METALS DETECTED IN THEM AT PPM CONCENTRATIONS