Saturday, April 10, 2010

Indian spices may expose kids to lead poisoning--study

A study conducted by U.S. doctors suggests that Indian spices and powders might expose young children to toxic lead.

The consumption of these spices elevates the risk of lead poisoning in children, especially in kids below six, which can further cause neurological impairment. Even low levels of lead exposure can cause behavioral changes in the kids, claimed the researchers.

For the study, 86 Indian spices and 71 ceremonial powders from 15 different stores in Boston were bought and investigated by the doctors.
Findings of the study The study revealed that around 22 of the 86 spices and 46 of the 71 powders had high amounts of detectable lead.

The lead concentration exceeded the European Union and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recommended limit of 2 to 3 micrograms lead per gram of product, revealed the lead authors of the study.
However, the spices had much lower lead content than the powders, kumkum(sindoor) ranking the highest with 47 percent to 67 percent lead concentrate.

Other products with higher lead levels were kohl, henna, tamarind candy, mustard seeds, and asafetida. On an average, the Indian products contained double the amount of lead than other foreign brands. "This is not a total shocker," said Dr. David Acheson, the former associate commissioner for foods at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). "Most come from the color dyes, particularly the reds, which often have lead in them."

Kids at risk
The study claims that around 2,50,000 American kids have dangerous lead levels in their body, Indian spices being the main culprit. Though the powders are not edible substances, children might ingest them through the food prepared by the parents. Moreover, infants too are exposed to them through inhalation or breast feeding.

Need of better inspection
The study reveals that a few Indian brands that were earlier banned or recalled were still available in the market, breaking all safety rules of the Food and Drug Administration. "Because of the high lead concentrations found in some sindoor samples, import, sale and labeling of these items should be carefully monitored, and low-lead sindoor (less than five micrograms per gram) could be suggested as a safer alternative," the study said. "Closer inspection and testing of other religious products is warranted." The study has been published in the journal “pediatrics”.


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