Metal impurities in food and drugs

Darrell R. Abernethy, Anthony J. DeStefano, Todd L. Cecil, Kahkashan Zaidi, Roger L. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


The major metals of potential health concern found in food, drugs (medicines), and dietary supplements are lead, cadmium, mercury, and arsenic. Other metals, such as chromium, copper, manganese, molybdenum, vanadium, nickel, osmium, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium, palladium, and platinum, may be used or introduced during manufacturing and may be controlled in the final article as impurities. Screening for metals in medicines and dietary supplements rarely indicates the presence of toxic metal impurities at levels of concern. The setting of heavy metal limits is appropriate for medicines and is appropriate for supplements when heavy metals are likely or certain to contaminate a given product. Setting reasonable health-based limits for some of these metals is challenging because of their ubiquity in the environment, limitations of current analytical procedures, and other factors. Taken together, compendial tests for metals in food and drugs present an array of issues that challenge compendial scientists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)750-755
Number of pages6
JournalPharmaceutical Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2010


  • Analysis
  • Impurities
  • Limits
  • Metals
  • Standards
  • Us pharmacopeia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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