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Alert on Lead in Calcium

October 02, 2000|From Associated Press

CHICAGO — Many over-the-counter calcium supplements that millions take to keep bones strong contain small amounts of lead that could be a health risk if recommended doses are exceeded, research suggests.

About 5% of the U.S. population takes the supplements, including a sizable number of menopausal women, who face an increased risk of osteoporosis as their bodies stop producing estrogen. About 10 million Americans suffer from the bone-thinning disease.

Calcium is often mined from ancient seabeds that also may contain lead, which in high doses can damage the nerves, blood cells and digestive system.

However, the authors say their findings suggest supplements are generally safe and beneficial unless taken in larger-than-recommended doses for many years.

The authors' results appeared in the Sept. 20 issue of Journal of the American Medical Assn.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

How Much Lead?

Over-the-counter calcium supplements tested for lead, with lead content of each in micrograms per 1,500 milligrams of calcium.

* Caltrate 600, 3.43.

* Calcium, 600 mg, 3.18.

* Liqui-Cal Calcium 600 softgels, 2.95.

* Oyster Shell Calcium, 500 mg with vitamin D, 1.95.

* Calci-Mix, 1.80.

* Hi-Calcium from oyster shell, 1.77.

* Natural Oyster Shell Calcium, 500 mg with vitamin D, 1.74.

* Oscal 500, 1.74.

* Calci-Chew, no lead.

* Calcium, 600 mg plus vitamin D, no lead.

* Calcium, 600 mg supplement, no lead.

* Chewable Ultra Antacid, no lead.

* Extra strength antacid tablets, no lead.

* Finest Natural Pharmaceutical-Grade

calcium 500 with vitamin D, no lead.

* Natural Calcium 600, no lead.

* Natural Oyster Shell Calcium plus vitamin D, no lead.

* Nephro-Calci, no lead.

* Pharmaceutical Grade Calcium 600, no lead.

* PhosLo, no lead.

* Regular strength chewable antacid tablets, no lead.

* Renagel, no lead.

* Tums EX, no lead.

* Tums Ultra, lead.

Source: Journal of the American Medical Assn.

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