Environmentalists already know that everything from air pollution, global warming and even BPA could be contributing to rising rates of asthma. Unfortunately, I've got bad news for asthma sufferers who have been trying to improve their health with supplements. A product called Vita Breath — a dietary supplement specifically marketed to asthma sufferers — has been found by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to contain alarming amounts of lead.
According to the FDA, a sample of Vita Breath tested by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene was found to have 1,100 parts per million of lead — a level more than 10,000 times higher than what the FDA allows in candy.
The supplement came to the NY department's attention after a patient with lead poisoning reported taking Vita Breath, among other supplements. Vita Breath is made by American Herbal Lab of Rosemead, Calif., and is sold at health fairs and over the Internet — though American Herbal Lab's shopping website appears to have been taken down.
How was a product with so much lead allowed to be sold to U.S. consumers? At NPR's health blog Shots, April Fulton writes: "It may come as a surprise to many people that FDA has less authority over supplements than over drugs and medical devices." For now, the FDA is simply warming people to avoid Vita Breath while the agency investigates the supplement. What happens after the investigation is complete? "FDA can take a range of actions when it finds lead or other heavy metal problem in a product, ranging from seizure to injunctions and detentions," writes Fulton.
So if you have asthma and shopped at health fairs or on the Internet for supplements — check your medicine cabinet to see if you've got a bottle of Vita Breath. If you do, remember not to dump the bottle down the toilet! Take the unwanted, tainted pills to your nearest household hazardous waste center.