Heavy Metals in Indigenous Preparations Used for Sex Selection During Pregnancy in India


Indigenous preparations (IPs) have evoked a considerable interest in alleviating infections and chronic diseases and improving wellbeing. While such formulations have been a part of traditional practice in several countries and many have been reviewed scientifically for their claims, several of them until date remain to be investigated. A class of IPs for sex selection by Indian pregnant women exists with an aim of begetting a male offspring. In view of the leads obtained from our previous studies on detrimental effects of the newborn, for instance stillbirths and congenital malformations, we attempted to investigate the samples for heavy metal toxicity. Three samples were chosen following phytochemical analysis and reproductive toxicity of such preparations under in vivo conditions. The selected samples were examined for heavy metals—lead, cadmium, arsenic, and mercury using Microwave-assisted atomic absorption spectroscopy. The upper limit level of lead, mercury, and cadmium was found to be 18.56, 0.11, and 0.84 mg/kg respectively whereas arsenic was not detected. The levels of lead and mercury were found to be manifolds high in the IP samples that were primarily contributed by its constituents. The results of our study indicate the potential risk conferred upon, to both the mother and fetus on account of high levels of lead, mercury, and cadmium.

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This study was conducted as part of a large study supported by Department of Science and Technology, New Delhi; Science and Technology Council, Haryana. The funding body had no role in the design of the study, collection, analysis, and interpretation of data and in writing the manuscript.

Author information




AG conceptualized the study and provided overall guidance. PR and SBN reviewed the literature and drafted the manuscript. SB, RS, RG, AG provided inputs and finalized the manuscript. All the authors agreed with the final version of the manuscript. All other Authors have read the manuscript and have agreed to submit it in its current form for consideration for publication in the Journal.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sutapa Bandyopadhyay Neogi.

Ethics declarations

Ethics Approval and Consent to Participate

This toxicity study was a subset of a larger study funded by Department of Science and Technology (DST) under SEED division and S&T Council, Haryana, for which approval was sought from Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPHD) Institutional Ethics Committee (IEC).

Consent to Publish

The study involved collection of samples of indigenous medicine from different genres of the society. Given the sensitive nature of the topic, we did not take a written consent but an assurance was given by the research team that their details would be kept confidential. Due permission was taken from our IEC.

Competing Interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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Ganguli, A., Rai, P., Balachandran, S. et al. Heavy Metals in Indigenous Preparations Used for Sex Selection During Pregnancy in India. Biol Trace Elem Res 188, 239–244 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12011-018-1411-1

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  • Sex selection
  • Indigenous preparations
  • Heavy metals
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Pregnancy