Excessive and dangerous lead contents have recently been found in a number of unexpected sources, including colored printing inks1 and toothpaste.2 The pervasiveness of lead contamination suggested an examination of the lead content of aspirin. Aspirin was chosen because of its high rate of consumption in the United States, because of its ready availability as a nonprescription drug, and because of the possibilities for lead contamination during its manufacture. Dust in the manufacturing plants or corrosion of pipes and vessels with the sulfuric or acetic acids used could result in lead contamination of aspirin.
Surprisingly, the United States Pharmacopeia specifies that aspirin may contain as much as 10 ppm of lead.3 This represents a daily intake of 50μg of lead if ten ½-gm tablets are taken daily. This would be a substantial amount of ingested lead, especially when added to the 200μg to 300μg ingested daily from