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ICP-OES and Micronucleus Test to Evaluate Heavy Metal Contamination in Commercially Available Brazilian Herbal Teas

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Increased tea consumption in combination with intensive pesticide use is generating heavy metal contaminations amongst Brazilian tea consumers, causing health concerns. Inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES) was applied to quantify minerals and heavy metals such as aluminum, barium, cadmium, lead, cobalt, copper, chromium, tin, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, selenium, silver, thallium, vanadium and zinc in Brazilian chamomile, lemongrass, fennel and yerba mate teas. Teas, purchased in local supermarkets, were prepared using infusion and acid digestion. Higher concentrations of Al were present in all samples. In the digested samples, the Al mean concentration was 2.41 μg g−1 (sd = 0.72) for fennel and 33.42 μg g−1 (sd = 17.18) for chamomile, whilst the sample C for chamomile tea presented the highest concentration with 51.62 μg g−1 (sd = 9.17). The safety relation in decreasing order is fennel, lemongrass, chamomile and yerba mate. Chemometric analyses demonstrated a strong correlation between the elements Cd and Pb in the samples. Yerba mate had the highest amount of metal (100 mg kg−1), being the subject of a micronucleus test assay for cytotoxicity. The metals found in Yerba mate did not present cytotoxicity/mutagenicity using the micronucleus test. The inorganic contaminants in teas should have their impact carefully monitored.

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This study was supported with funds from University Vila Velha. FAPES and University Vila Velha are acknowledged for their scientific scholarship and Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES/PNPD, 2014) is acknowledged for a post-doc fellowship. Tommasi Analítica is acknowledged for their assistance with the quantitative analysis of metals.

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Correspondence to Denise Coutinho Endringer.

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Schunk, P.F.T., Kalil, I.C., Pimentel-Schmitt, E.F. et al. ICP-OES and Micronucleus Test to Evaluate Heavy Metal Contamination in Commercially Available Brazilian Herbal Teas. Biol Trace Elem Res 172, 258–265 (2016).

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