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Indian spices may lead to poisoning in young children

A study published in an American paediatric journal said that young children who consistently ingest certain Indian spices and whose skin is exposed to religious powders such as 'sindoor' may be at risk of lead poisoning.


A study published in an American paediatric journal said that young children who consistently ingest certain Indian spices and whose skin is exposed to religious powders such as 'sindoor' may be at risk of lead poisoning.

Lead is a dangerous neurotoxin which has been linked to Indian spices such as turmeric, black mustard seed and asafoetida. Ritual powders like 'shringar', however, appear to be of greater concern, as they may contain up to 64% lead and can be dangerous when applied on children.

Children under 6 are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning, which is asymptomatic but can lead to serious neurological impairment. Researchers are thus chiefly concerned about infants who are chronically exposed to these products up to several times a week.

Experts say that most of the lead in these products comes from the colour dyes, especially those in shades of red. Long-term low-level exposure to these spices and ritual powders could be a large problem for children whose families use them regularly.