Tag Archives: Lead Hazard

The oxidants of Lead, a natural element, is used in many consumer goods for durable colour, water resistance and anti-corrosive property. However, if Lead is getting into the human body, can cause many health hazards including death.

Ministry of environment issues draft notification to check lead in household and decorative paint

According to a notification by Ministry of Environment, metallic lead in household and decorative paint exceeding 90 parts per million is hereby prohibited. The Ministry of Forest, Environment and Climate Change in India, issued the draft Gazette Notification on 8th April, 2016, of certain rules to regulate the manufacture, trade, use, import and export of lead contents in household and decorative paints.

Bureau of India Standards (BIS) shall be the nodal agency for the purposes of these rules and shall implement the provisions of these rules. These rules may be called the Regulation on Lead contents in Household and Decorative Paints Rules, 2016.

Presently there is not mandatory regulation to limit the use of lead in paint. The notification comes after persistent campaigns by consumer organisations and environmentalists as Lead is a major health hazard.  Lead poisoning may lead to genetic disorder, anaemia, learning disability, joint paint, and a host of other ailments. In most countries their are strict regulations to curb the use of lead in paint.

The following conditions shall be applicable namely:

  • The manufacturer or importer of the product shall label its product stating that the lead content does not exceed 90ppm and such labelling shall be durable and legible
  • The labelling shall contain the name of the manufacturer and the importer
  • The stipulations regarding the content of lead shall apply to paints manufactured on and from the date of coming into force of these rules
  • Every manufacturer or importer of product shall have a valid certificate of approval of the nodal agency for the manufacture of the product in India or for being imported into India
  • Every manufacturer or importer shall submit a schedule for drawing samples by the nodal agency by 31st March every year for subjecting its product for verification for conformity with the provision of rule 2.

Any person or organization desirous of making any suggestion or objection respect of the present draft rules may forward the same by writing by mail or fax for consideration of the central government within sixty days to W. Bharat Singh, Joint Director, Ministry of Environment.

Also Read: Be part of the Big Impact: Stop Lead Poisoning

66 percent of Children tested had more than 5 Blood Lead Level

In Cities in India, people are aware that the environment is polluted and that Lead is one of the pollutants. During the Lead in Maggi controversy, consumers argued that compared to the other pollutants in the environment, Lead in Maggi was miniscule. In India, unlike in US there is no mandatory test among consumers to figure out lead toxicity in children.  Blood Lead Level (BLL) more than 5 can cause health, growth, neurological and mental problem for children. There is very little study in India to figure out the BLL of consumers in India among those who are not directly at risk from Lead pollution.

High BLL among Middle and Lower Class

Recently in a study conducted by Lead Activists and Doctors in Banglore, among inpatients aged less than Five, 66% of the children had BLL <5 μg/dl, which is considered as level of concern as per Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention.   The patients have no direct risk of lead exposure. Along with BLL done on the children, questionnaire was supplied to the parent to know about their awareness about lead poisoning.  100 children belonged to the lower, middle and the higher income group. The children with the High BLL belonged to the lower income group more than the middle and the higher income group.

With 66 out of 100 children showing high BLL — with no known direct risks to Lead exposure — proves that there is an urgent requirement of conducting BLL test among children in cities in India.

Very little awarness of sources of Lead Exposure

Lead toxicity in childeren in India - table

The study showed that the awareness of the sources of lead toxicity and the effect of lead poisoning is very poor among consumers in India. Consumers are aware of Lead hazard from paints and batteries, but they were unaware of the lead exposure from soil, dust, groundwater and  vehicular traffic. Apart from the occupational exposure to Lead, water, contaminated food and consumer items are also major sources of Lead. In Delhi there were media reports about Lead in vegetables grown near contaminated water bodies.

According to the study ” ……… build up of Lead
in the environmental compartments is still an issue of high
exposure risk in India, inspite of the relatively lesser organized
production and use of Lead as compared to the developed

Parents were prepared to conduct Lead Testing of their surroundings so as to provide safe environs for the Children.

Parents prepared for Lead Tests

The study also showed that parents were prepared to conduct Lead Testing of their surroundings so as to provide safe environs for the Children.

With 66 out of 100 children showing high BLL — with no known direct risks to Lead exposure — proves that there is an urgent requirement of conducting BLL test among children in cities in India. And also awareness should be spread among consumers about how to safeguard their children from Lead exposure. The media can be put to use to spread the message. According to studies children exposed to lead have lower IQ which effect their mental development and thereby resulting in a loss to the nation and humanity.  As Lead is not required in any amount by the human body, steps must be taken to reduce or eliminate the use of Lead.

In order to reduce the menace of Lead you can also participate in the #StopLeadPoisoning campaign.

Be part of the Big Impact: Stop Lead Poisoning

Colourless, odourless and poisonous lead, invisible to the naked eye but is present in the soil, water, air and products of daily use. In countries like The US, FDI takes stringent measures to ensure that lead compound in consumer goods are within the permissible limit; mandatory labour rules and regulations assure the safety of Lead workers. In India various organizations successfully highlighted the hazards of lead in petrol and lead in paint, and they were successful in implementing certain restrictions on the usage of lead. Now Lead is not used in petrol anymore, and lead in paint has to be within permissible limits. There is a long way to go, much more have to be done to reduce or restrict the use of lead in India.

In the last two years, Consumers India conducted a series of research with students, researchers and doctors, accumulating a wealth of information clearly indicating towards the presence of a hazardous level of Lead in India. As a result of consistent effort, letters, based on the studies and discussion, have been sent to Prime Minister, Health Minister, Cabinet Secretary and others in Government of India. This issue has also been flagged before National Human Rights Commission.

According to WHO, 13 out to the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India, and Delhi tops the chart with six times the level of airborne particulate matter than are considered safe. WHO prepared the report based on the presence of harmful gases in the air such as nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide. There are some other pollutants in our surrounding which need to be reduced or if possible removed from the environment. One such pollutant is Lead, described as ‘hazardous’ and ‘poisonous’ worldwide, and found in dangerous level in the atmosphere as well as inside the human body. All lead found in products are lead compounds which oxidize and mixes with water, soil, air and human blood and bone.

Inorganic Lead compounds used for the industrial or domestic purpose, mostly in the oxidized state, leaches into the soil, water and air resulting in many health hazards leading to even death. According to studies Lead (PB2) is mistaken for Calcium (Ca2) and gets into the bones.

Lead has been used since time immemorial and was considered healthy for use. But scientific studies and clinical reports prove that lead at any level is harmful for human consumption. However because of many useful properties like water resistance and enhancing the colour, lead is used in many domestic and industrial products like the lead sheet, cosmetics, PVC pipes, glaze and ceramic paintings, trinkets and paints.

How to detect lead?

The presence of lead can only be proved by tests at Lead testing labs.

How to participate in the campaign?

All the Data and pictures collected can be tweeted with #StopLeadPoisoning to create the big impact

  • You can take the image of activities around your places like battery recycling or industrial activities which are taking place in areas banned for such activities.
  • If you find lead mentioned in the labeling, then send the pictures.
  • If you think someone, especially worker and kids have symptoms of lead poisoning, take picture and report.
  • If there are products with lead compounds at home, you can click the image.
  • You can also test the soil with Handheld X-ray fluorescence XRF analyzer
  • No level of lead is good for human health, but in many countries blood lead level below 10 is considered safe and above 40 is hazardous.

Products that cause Lead poisoning

big impact - stop lead poisoning


Lead is used in paints for speedy drying, durability and resistance to moisture that causes corrosion. Since lead is a leading cause of health hazard, many countries have the regulation prohibiting the use of lead in paints.  Alternative water-based paints are available. Although there are restrictions on the usage of lead in paint in India, Lead is added to some paints intended for household use. According to as survey by Toxic Link, it was the small and medium companies that covered 36%of the market which had a discrepancy in their claim about lead in paints. They find some technological difficulty in shifting to lead-free paints. Only lab tests can prove the presence of lead in paint. Lead added paints may be used in the homes. And sometimes playground equipment may contain high lever of lead, making the places hazardous for the kids.

Lead Sheets

Lead sheet is used for the construction of industry for roofing, flashing and cladding. And also used as shielding in the x-ray and nuclear industries. Lead in its solid metallic state (Lead sheet) would not normally present a hazard. However, Lead is a toxic metal and may present a hazard when melted from Lead dust and lead fumes. Oxidation of the surface of the Lead will occur forming a surface layer of Lead compounds.

Lead in water

Lead may be found in some metal water taps, interior water pipes, or pipes connecting a house to the main water pipe in the street. Lead found in tap water usually comes from the corrosion of older fixtures or from the solder that connects pipes. When water sits in leaded pipes for several hours, lead can leach into the water supply

PVC Pipes

As per various surveys and investigations conducted by organisations such as the ‘Quality Council of India,’ the presence of ‘lead in water’ has alarmed people and agencies across the country. Thirty-three percent of over 370 samples of water from the top 26 cities of India tested positive for the harmful content of lead. Out of these, 31% of samples failed to adhere to the World Health Organization (WHO) standards for a lead content of less than 10 ppb (parts per billion), while 2% of the samples failed to meet even the lenient Indian norms of 50 ppb.

Car and Inverter Batteries

 Lead poisoning occurs in many areas because of individuals recycling car batteries melted slag without appropriate controls and without having any understanding of the toxicity of lead.  According to a report, there are 110 Lead acid battery recycling units at Prem Nagar, near Mandoli, in Delhi which….. recover lead, releasing fumes and ash contaminating the air and soil.  Dr Naresh Gupta and Dr Amit Agrawal, of Maulana Azad Medical College, say that blood test on some workers in Delhi found that their blood lead is more that <40μg per dL, i.e., above the permissible limit. In another incident in Delhi  5-year-old girl, whose father is a battery factory worker, died of lead poisoning after suffering from kidney failure.

In humid conditions, car batteries need to be replaced every 2 or 3 years. Batteries are safe, but caution applies when touching damaged cells and when handling lead acid systems that have access to lead and sulfuric acid.

Ceramics Glaze

Lead may be present in the glazes or decorations covering the surface of some traditional pottery. If the pottery is not manufactured correctly, this lead can leach into food and drink that is prepared, stored, or served in the dishes.

It is not uncommon for ceramic items used for cooking or simply for decoration to contain lead. In fact, lead has been used in the glazing process for ceramic dishes, bowls, pitchers, plates and other utensils for centuries. Typically, after being fired in a kiln, a piece of ceramic will appear smooth and shiny due to the lead in the glaze.

However, to ensure that the items are safe for use, it is necessary to heat the ceramic to very high temperatures for a long enough period. If this step is not done correctly, the ceramic could contain levels of lead that pose a threat to human health.


Children use jewelry like bracelets, pendants, rings, etc. To attract kids, jewelry paint bright colours using organo-metallic compounds that are loosely bound to the surface and can peel out quickly. Children have a tendency to chew or swallow the jewellery which can sometimes be lethal.


  • Kohl, Kahal, Al-Kahal, or Surma: According to FDI, samples often tested contain significant amounts of lead. Lead sometimes accounts for more than half the weight of a sample of kKohl usually in the form of lead sulfide.
  • Lipstick: What many don’t know is that lipsticks may contain lead, the notorious metal that can cause learning, language and behavioral problems. Not all lipsticks contain lead, but some studies in recent years show that the metal is more prevalent than previously thought. In 2007, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics conducted a study — “A Poison Kiss” — that detected lead in 61% of the 33 lipsticks tested, with levels ranging from 0.03 ppm to 0.65 ppm. No lipstick lists lead as an ingredient. The amounts are small, but the presence of lead in lipstick, which is ingested and absorbed through the skin, raises concerns about the safety of a cosmetic product that is wildly popular among women. According to FDI “Lipstick, as a product intended for topical use with limited absorption is ingested only in tiny quantities. We do not consider the lead levels we found in the Lipsticks to be a safety concern.” Cost doesn’t seem to be a factor; a cheap or expensive lipstick isn’t the determinant of how much lead is present.
  • Progressive Hair Dyes: Lead acetate is used as a color additive in “progressive” hair dye products. These products are applied to achieve a gradual coloring effect.To ensure the safe use of these products, it is important that consumers follow these directions carefully.Users can determine if lead acetate is used in a particular hair dye product by reviewing the product ingredient declaration appearing on the label of the cosmetic package.


Lead may be found in paint on toys. It may also be used in plastic toys to stabilize molecules from heat.


Lead softens the plastic. The use of lead is plastic is still prevalent.

Contributors to the Campaign

The inputs from the following discussion and studies were mentioned in the letters sent to Honorable Prime Minister and other higher Authorities.  Important inputs were also provided by various other experts. The contributors are as follows:

  • A group of students, led by Sushant Thakran, pursuing BBS from Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies (University of Delhi) has prepared a study report titled ‘Lead & Occupational Hazards’ during Winter 2014-15 Batch of Internship with Consumers India.
  • Inputs from the study ‘Lead Poisoning and Women’ by the group led by Subuhi Karim (MA Eco-Jamia Millia Islamia).
  • Expert inputs received from Dr Naresh Gupta, Director-Professor,  Maulana Azad Medical College & Associated Hospitals.
  • Dr Roopa Vajpeyi, Academic & Consumer Activist was the mentor of the student groups.
  • Dr Naresh Gupta, Dr Roopa Vajpeyi and Ms Anita Gupta, Academic Head for Science, Mount Carmel School, who were panelists in our programmeIs Lead Poisoning  Killing You Slowly?’
Full text of the LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER, as also some highlights of the study ‘Lead & Occupational Hazards’ are given below.

December 27, 2015

Dear Mr Prime Minister,

I would like to share with you some of our concerns regarding Lead Poisoning emanating from the studies titled ‘Lead & Occupational Hazards’ and ‘Lead Poisoning and Women’ carried out by groups of students led by Sushant Thakran (BBS-3rd yr, Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies, DU) and Subuhi Karim (MA Eco-Jamia Millia Islamia) respectively during internship with Consumers India as also expert inputs received from Dr Naresh Gupta, Director-Professor,  Maulana Azad Medical College & Associated Hospitals, Dr Roopa Vajpeyi, Academic & Consumer Activist and Ms Anita Gupta, Academic Head for Science, Mount Carmel School, who were panelists in our programme Is Lead Poisoning  Killing You Slowly?’ Held on October 28,  2015, at India Habitat Centre.

  • Lead is a chemical element in the carbon group which is used extensively in paints, toys, cable sheathing, lead sheets, PVC Pipes, ammunitions, car and inverter batteries, ceramics glaze, cosmetics, etc.  Ayurvedic and herbal medicines may also contain high levels of lead.
  • WHO has identified lead as one of the chemicals of major public health concern. As per their estimates, 15-18 million children in developing countries are suffering from permanent brain damage due to lead poisoning.
  • The tests carried out by the Centre for Science on popular paints in India found that 72 % of the samples had much higher levels of lead than the voluntary limit specified by the Bureau of Indian Standards.
  • All the samples of artificial jewellery tested by Toxics Link were found to contain very high levels of lead, which when ingested, could lead to lead poisoning.
  • 33% of over 370 samples of water from the top 26 cities of India tested positive for the harmful content of lead. (QCI).
  • Exposure to lead causes anaemia, hypertension, kidney diseases and impaired fertility. Children and pregnant women are particularly susceptible to lead poisoning. The foetus of a pregnant woman is gravely affected by lead exposure since lead can pass through the placenta directly to the baby.
  • Lead paint is the major source of lead exposure for children. Children’s digestive system absorbs up to 50% of the lead they ingest. Studies have shown as much as a 5.8 decline in IQ (on a scale where 100 is average) for every 10 micrograms increase of lead in blood levels.
  • As lead paint deteriorates, it peels. A single chip of paint of the size of a thumbnail contains 1 gram of lead, and a few such chips can raise the intake of lead to 1,000 times the acceptable limit. Children with a history of pica (compulsive cravings to eat non-food items like dirt, paint chips or clay) are at risk of lead poisoning.
  • Cosmetics like lipstick, Kajal and sindoor are major sources of lead poisoning in women. The average quantity of lipstick ingested by a woman in her lifetime is 2 kgs, and it is also linked to infertility and miscarriage.
  • A survey of workers carried out by our interns for their study revealed that most of the painters don’t even know that there is the lead in paint which is hazardous to health. The battery recyclers, however, generally know that their field of work is associated with lead. But they cannot imagine switching jobs as they have to feed their family!
  • A survey of consumers revealed that 70% of them had no awareness of the lead content they are exposed to in day-to-day life.
  • Though Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) had revised its household and decorative paint standards to 90 ppm in 2013, it is rarely followed by industry.

We suggest that following steps be taken by the Government to tackle this menace effectively:

  • It is necessary to establish a national mandatory regulatory framework to control the manufacture, import, export, sale, and use of lead paints, toys, cosmetics, Ayurvedic and herbal medicines and other products causing lead poisoning.
  • Awareness regarding lead poisoning should be spread amongst consumers.
  • Prenatal check up of pregnant women should include the blood test for lead.
  • There is also need to review the existing limits for Lead in prevailing standards. Many countries worldwide are reducing the permissible limits. For example, Canada has a limit of 10 ppm for Lead in products applied to the skin.

We appeal to you to kindly take adequate measures to safeguard the health and well-being of our consumers from the hazards of lead poisoning.

With regards,

Yours truly,

Dr Jayashree Gupta

President, Consumers India

handheld x-ray fluorescence xrf analyzer for lead testing

Now that we discussed about the sources of lead, you might wonder if it is possible to detect the presence of lead in our homes. Lab analyses are expensive and time-consuming. However the handheld x-ray fluorescence (xrf) analyzer is the best substitute because we can take the instrument to the product, for instance for testing the soil. This battery operated, handheld x-ray fluorescence xrf analyzer is useful in detecting not only lead but also chlorine, cadmium, mercury, chromium, etc.

Uses of handheld x-ray fluorescence XRF analyzer

Presently handheld x-ray fluorescence xrf analyzer is used in western countries mainly by the manufacturers, sellers and importers to ensure complete safety of the product from hazardous substances. The manufacturers use handheld x-ray fluorescence (xrf) analyzer to detect toxins at three stages:

  • examining the raw materials before manufacturing
  • analyzing if the toxic elements are within permissible limits during the manufacturing process
  • verifying that the finished products comply with the specification of the the consumer safety guidelines.

Soil testing Vs Lead-leaching crops

Studies also indicate lead levels in people’s blood correspond directly to the amount of lead in the soil where they live. There can be many reason for the amount of lead in the soil to be more than that occurs naturally. Industrial activities, pesticide use, lead paint and lead batteries are some of the reasons for high level of lead in soil. When lead-leaching crops are cultivated is highly toxic soil they will be contaminated. Some of the common source of lead is through Lead-leaching crops including herbs, leafy greens and root vegetables such as potatoes, radishes and carrots.  Handheld x-ray fluorescence (xrf) analyzer, are being used to detect the level of lead in the soil. Anyone who cultivates vegetables be it  kitchen garden, farmhouse or community farms they can approach organization that conduct soil test using handheld x-ray fluorescence (xrf) analyzer. Soil amendments can be made if the soil is found to be high in lead content.

handheld x-ray fluorescence xrf analyzer

Relevance of handheld x-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzer in India

There is high vulnerability to lead exposure as lead is found in many of the commonly used items, Batteries, Crayons, polymers, toys, paints, etc. As many homes are relatively old and small scale industries are found near to residential areas, the soil needs to be checked before cultivation is done.  Handheld x-ray fluorescence (xrf) analyzer can be used to screen a wide rand of products, plastic, paints, toys, electrical items, etc.

Lead exposure is a matter of serious concern as there are about 600,000 new cases of children developing intellectual disabilities and around 143,000 deaths every year. Campaign against lead hazards in India has been going on for decades, successfully resulting in the introduction of unleaded petrol and the paint manufacturers specifying whether lead is present in their products. Efforts are also on to reduce lead related occupational health hazards in India. However, it was the detection of lead in maggi that spread awareness regarding lead exposure.

Handheld x-ray fluorescence (xrf) analyzers are available in India.Here is an interview with Vinay Kumar C., Environmental Researcher with National Referral Centre for Lead Projects in India (NRCLPI) to have an insight about Handheld x-ray fluorescence (xrf) analyzers available in India.

Is handheld x-ray fluorescence (xrf) analyzer available only with NRCLPI, if not, where else are the instruments available?

No, the instrument is available in various primer research institutes and industries .

Can anyone buy the instrument or you need some kind of authorization?

Based on requirement by an industry/research institute it shall be supplied.

I think the same instrument is used to testing gold, can consumer go to some gold shop and get the lead test done?

Yes for large scale import & export XRF detection has been used. Generally Jewelers may also use electronic gold testers to figure out the quality of a piece of gold. Using a specific liquid or gel, they first create a circuit between the device’s probe and the gold.

Is this instrument user-friendly? Can this be operated by ordinary consumers?

Yes, the user is 100% user friendly and can be operated easily as it doesn’t require any reagents/chemicals/frequent software up gradation.But since it emits high frequency x-ray radiation which is harmful to health, it requires trained and knowledgeable person to use it in a safe mode without harming himself as well others.

Is this machine available for sale in India?

Yes, equipment is available in India and their various models of XRF, few are imported. 

How does a Handheld x-ray fluorescence xrf analyzers work

In a x-ray fluorescence (XRF), the electrons are displaced from their atomic orbital positions, whereby releasing energy which has the characteristic of the elements like lead, cadmium, etc. The XRF instrument detects and registers the release of energy.  The energy released helps in categorizing the element. Here is the analysis of the working of machine in detail:

The analyzer triggers X-ray beam with enough energy to affect the electrons in the inner shells of the atoms. The x-ray beam is then discharged from the front of the handheld XRF analyzer. The x-ray beam comes in contact  with the atoms in the sample by moving the electrons out of place from the inner orbital shells of the atom. This movement occurs as a result of the difference in energy between the x-ray beam emitted and the binding energy that holds electrons in their proper orbits; the displacement happens when the x-ray beam energy is higher than the binding energy of the electrons with which it interacts. Electrons have fixed positon at specific energies in an atom. In each element spacing between the orbital shells of an atom is unique to the atoms, so an atom of potassium (K) differs from the spacing between an atom of gold (Au), or silver (Ag), etc.

When electrons are displaced of their orbit, they leave behind vacant space, destabilising the atom. In order to correct, the instability created by the vacancies that the displaced electrons left behind, the atoms from higher orbits move down to a lower orbit where a vacancy exits. For instance, if an electron is shifted from the innermost shell of the atom, an electron from the upper shell can move down to fill the vacancy. This is fluorescence.

As electrons have higher binding energies the further they are away from the nucleus of the atom, an electron loses some energy when it drops from a higher electron shell to an electron shell closer to the nucleus. The amount of energy lost is equivalent to the difference in energy between the two electron shells, which is determined by the distance between them. The distance between the two orbital shells is unique to each element, as mentioned above. The energy lost helps in identifying the element from which it emanates, as the amount of energy lost in the fluorescence process is unique to each element. The individual fluorescent energies detected depends upon the elements that are present in the sample. In order to verify the amount of each element present, the proportion in which the individual energies appear can be calculated by the instrument.

Maggi took a break: Now Let us have some ghar ka khana (home made food)

In the hectic lifestyle of the cities, we Aam Admi’s follow a balanced diet – consuming almost equal amount of nutritious food as well as junk food everyday. Everyone knows that junk food and fast food are injurious to health, but due to time constrains we decide that having something – junk or unhealthy – is better than having nothing. At home preparing healthy food, or ghar ka khana, regularly can be stressful so if woman are given a helping hand they can prepare healthy food. It is said that Joseph Maggi invented maggi so that working women can prepare healthy healthy food easily for their kids.

In their busy schedule parent usually prepare lunch box consisting of bread and jam or cooked instant noodles. The lunch box recipes makes no one happy. Neither the children are happy with the  cold snack, nor the parents are happy with the nutritious value of the food packed in the lunch box. If the children are inculcated with the habit of eating home-made food, they never give up that habit. With some quick trick, and 20 minutes to spare, parents can prepare healthy and homely lunch box recipe for kids. Here are a few lunch box recipes, that will bring smile on the face of parent and children.

Tip: To make the cooking easier and happier, both the parents should lend each other a helping hand in preparing the lunchbox. Here are a few recipes to be make the lunchbox of kids tastier, healthier and happier. To know more about lunchbox home delivery system read this post.
  1. Potato tricks: A lunch box recipe that every child will like to pack to school. Boil potato overnight; and in the morning add some spices to make it tastier. Use the potato base as stuffing for roti and sandwich. Add some tomato sauce, kids will love the combination.
  2. Cottage cheese magic: A lunch box recipe with lot of calcium. Crumble the cottage cheese and add spices as per choice. You can also add chopped tomatoes, onion and capsicum. Use the base as stuffing for sandwich and paneer parantha. Or else, cut the paneer into 1”inch cubes; cook the paneer using paneer butter masala. Instant butter panner mix requires less cooking time.
  3. Egg unlimited: Kids love eggs; and its easy to prepare, tasty and nutritious egg snacks. Sandwich or roti rolls can be made by stuffing boiled and crumbled egg; scrambled egg or omelet. Whip an egg and pour it over the roti in the pan, flip the roti over two or three times, until the egg is cooked well – Egg Parantha is ready!
  4. Minced Chicken: Any dish with a hint of chicken in it, is inviting. Minced chicken can be converted into limitless number of dishes. On a busy morning you can go for a minced chicken stuffed sandwich or roti. Or, if time permits, refrigerate, boiled and drained, noodles overnight; in the morning mix it with shallow fried minced chicken and other ingredient to make chicken chow mein.
  5. Vegetables Cutlets: A play-way method lunch box recipe that will inculcate the habit of eating vegetables. At leisure prepare and refrigerate ready-to-fry vegetable cutlets. In the morning fry the cutlets and place it between bread slice along with cucumber and tomato slices. The vegetables can be sliced  and kept beforeitself.

The entire cooking process will take only 15 to 20 minutes. The cooking process is made simple if the dough for roti is prepared and stored overnight.To cook faster utilize all kinds of kitchen gadgets.
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Ancy Abraham

Where does lead in food come from?

Our body does not require lead, an element found in nature, but because of the presence of lead in many consumer products, and manufacturing process, we get exposed to lead. We have some amount of lead in our body which is not dangerous as long as  it is within permissible limits. The problem with lead is it does not get out as easily from the body, as it gets inside the body. Hence when the lead accumulates in the blood over a period of time it can lead to health issues – damaging the nervous system, causing brain disorders, repeated anemia, a low IQ level, headache, affecting the immune system, impaired fertility, and hypertension. It accumulates in both soft tissues and the bones. The US considers ‘lead’ the number one environmental threat to the health of children.

For the last few month I was trying to convey the above message to the Consumers in India, but with little effect. Along with students of Delhi University, I did a research for Consumers India about Lead Hazards in India. The findings were alarming as lead was found in food, household items, paints, soil and air. Getting the message across to the consumers was difficult because they think there are bigger health hazards in the polluted environs of the city.  We were searching for new methods to educate the public – Seminars in schools, huge billboards in hospitals and messages through media. If there is a suitable substitute for lead then it can be eliminated. Lead Petrol was removed in India after protests from activists and NGOs’.

Thanks to the controversy regarding Lead in Maggi, Consumers are all ears to know about the hazards of Lead. Developed countries have a measurement to find out if a person is within the permissible limit of lead or they need to take medical help. A child in the US is said to be exposed to lead if the Blood lead level is between 4 and 10 mcg/dl(Micrograms Per Decilitre) and precaution are sought from the authorities to find out the source of exposure and precautions to be taken. And if the child has blood lead level of more than 10 mcg they have to undergo  medical treatment.

There are numerous sources of lead exposures – lead batteries, lead paints, pottery with lead paints, newspaper prints, the prints on plastic cover, soil, vegetables that are grown in soil with high concentration of lead, water with lead and air.  We are exposed to lead in all our daily activities and if we check our blood lead level, we might be diagnosed as victims of lead exposure. In our research we found vegetables like spinach contains lead and they are not removed even by thorough washing. Lead is also there in jellies, ice creams and tinned food, as the soldering is of lead.

Food items FDA (The US) checked for high lead c

The United States FDA has stated a number of products that may contain lead more that the permissible level.

  • In 2004, United States Consumer Product Safety Commission found that Candies contained unsafe amount of lead from the wrappers.
  • In 2002, FDA found that Milk Chocolate contained more than permissible limit of lead, which was because of the chocolate liquor used in it. The manufacturers were asked to take precaution while taking raw materials. However the level of lead was found to be high in Dark Chocolates as they contain higher amount of liquor chocolate.
  • FDA also found  lead in candy but within permissible limits. Candies contain sugar (lead in sucrose) which contains ‘average levels of contaminants that are well below the applicable limit’.
  • Mexican candies with chilli as ingredient had detectable level of lead because of the soil they were grown.
  • Candies with tamarind as ingredient was found to have lead because the products were packed in lead glazed bowls.

Where does lead in food come from in Maggi?

In our research we never found any case with noodles having lead. So I asked Vinay Kumar C, Environmental Researcher, National Referral Centre for Lead Projects in India, about the possible routes of lead exposure in Maggi, and following are his assumptions:

1. Masala ( Taste Makers): The success of Maggi is in it’s unique taste of added masala packet which comes with it, prepared exclusively comprising various ingredients. Lead may be entered in any of the raw materials procured – research have indicated that Lead Chromate are usually found in healthy haldi ( turmeric ) and mixed species as common adulteration.

Read also: Serve global brands in India with desi tadka – An anecdote on how Maggi made inroads in India 30 years ago.

 2. Water: Even the water employed during the whole process of Maggi preparation may be contaminated with Lead/ toxic chemicals due to the sub-standard/old metal piping in the various manufacturing units. The possible contamination may also be in its source.  Ex : ground water, tankers from unknown source.
3.Packing: The plastic employed to packing Maggi products need to be tested and certified as various plastic (bright solid-coloured plastic packing bags/covers) may contain high concentrations of lead as per the studies & test results  of Northeast Recycling Council,US.
4.Production Machinery:  The old paints on the machinery or the oil agents( containing lead content) used for running the equipment may have come in contact with production.

In an interview to Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Uday Annapure, an associate professor of the department of food engineering and technology at the Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai, said that while none of the many food additives used in making the wheat noodles support lead, some components of the soup-flavoring packet, such as onion powder and wheat flour, “come from agricultural sources, all vulnerable to lead contamination,” (Source WSJ)

During the course of the research I asked an eminent person about who could be given the credit for the elimination of lead from petrol in India. He said in this big country, India, a single person or an organisation cannot bring about a change. I beg to differ from his argument in this case of spreading awareness about lead hazards. Had lead not been detected in Maggi, no one would have bothered to read this article. Maggi did in 2-minutes what Lead activists could not do for decades – spread awareness about lead exposure among consumers in India.

 Also Read:Lead poisoning: How safe are you?

                          Lead hazard in India!!!

Lead in Food

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Celebrate eco friendly holi with toxic-free holi colours

holi colours

Holi means the festival of colours, so there is no use preaching to stay away from the colours. It is a well-known fact that the colours of Holi stay on for more than a day, which means some of the colours are getting absorbed into the body. Hence opt for eco friendly Holi colours. Read this post to find out the benefits of vertical farming.

We see a large number of Holi colours in the market which may be toxic in nature, but we are unable to verify if the colours are toxic. So the best option is to buy branded, packed colours like Rangeela that mentions toxic-free colours on the packing.  However, we tend to buy the unbranded colours because they are cheaper and brighter in colours

As the saying goes, ‘look can be deceptive’ – the brighter the colour, the greater the chances of presence of Lead which is a toxic element. There is a number of toxic element that is added to make the colours darker. 


“Green colour is obtained from copper sulphate -which may cause allergies in the eye or even temporary blindness.

Purple is obtained from chromium iodide – which may cause bronchial asthma or other forms of allergy.

Silver is obtained from aluminium bromide – a known carcinogenic.

Black is obtained from lead oxide – may cause renal failures or learning disability.

Red is obtained from mercury sulphite – may cause skin cancer or Minamata disease (mental retardation, paralysis, impaired vision…)

Shiny Colours are a result of powdered glass being added to the colours.” – holifestival.org

Not only are the colours harmful to human skins, but also the environment. When the colours go down the drain, the toxic elements mix with the soil, the river and the air polluting the environment, endangering the flora and fauna, and adding toxic content in the vegetables.

Get the colours tested 

If you are unsure of the toxicity of the colours and still want to buy them, test the product in some reputed institutions. One such institution that conducts toxicity tests for colours is NRCLPI (National Referral Centre for Lead Projects in India) in Banglore. “You can courier the sample,” says Mr. Vinay Kumar of NRCLPI. The test will ensure the eco-friendliness of the Holi colour powders.

Holi colours - NRCLPI

 How to prepare Holi colours at home 

Always homemade eco friendly holi colours are the best choices to stay from any kind of malpractices and health hazards. Traditionally many families prepare organic colours at home using kitchen ingredients, leaves, tree barks and flowers that are available around the house. Not only are the raw materials eco-friendly, they have many health benefits too.

  • The yellow colour is naturally available in turmeric to which you can add gramflour to increase the volume.  You can also dry and powder chrysanthemums for the yellow hue.
  • Dried and powdered Henna, Palak and leaves of Gulmohar can give green colour.
  • Rose petals, red hibiscus flower, kumkum can be dried and powdered to get a red colour. Also, redcolour can be obtained from grated and boiled beetroot.
  • Buy dried flowers from the market, soak them overnight to get a saffron colour.
  • The brown colour is found in tea leaves.

Nowadays herbal colours made from extracts of flowers, tree barks and leaves are available in the market. As they do not cause health hazard they are in high demand. Sometimes the herbal holi colours are also scented using essential oils like lemongrass and orange.

Lead hazard in India!!!

Studies so far in India show that the public knows lead is poisonous, but they are not aware of presence of lead in products they use and in the environment. Lead hazard is a reality in India, as the blood tests and lead related hospitalizations show. More about lead poisoning is mentioned in this post.

Delhi is ranked the most polluted city in the world, lead is one of the pollutants.The Info graphics provides information to raise awareness of lead hazards.

Lead hazard
Lead poisoning in India

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Lead poisoning: How safe are you?

lead pencil

One day my son poked his finger with  pencil lead and screamed frantically fearing he might be ‘lead poisoned’. I shrugged off his fear saying  lead is not harmful for the human body and that pencil lead does not contain lead, it a mixture of graphite and clay.

But after doing some research, I realized that lead accumulated in the body has many health hazards. Although lead has many uses like in the automobile industry, once the element is released into the environment, it finds its way into the soil, air and water. Human beings absorb led by inhalation, ingestion and dermal contact. Children under the age of 5 absorb 50% of the lead they ingest. Read how to celebrate toxic-free, lead-free holi in this post. 

In developed countries like US the blood lead level in children has to be less than 5microgram/deciliter of blood.  The more the level of lead in the body, greater are the chances of acquiring health related issues. Children are the most vulnerable as their IQ may drop if the toxicity increases.  In developed countries an adult having a blood lead level of more than 40mcg/dl has to undergo medical treatment to reduce lead level to less than 40mcg/dl.

Symptoms of Lead poisoning

It is not the pencil lead, but the paint used on the pencil which may contain lead. Children tend to to eat the paint while writing. Lead accumulates over a period in the blood and so it is hard to detect. Lead poisoning goes undetected as many of the complications of lead poisoning can be confused with other diseases: tiredness and fatigue, headache, anemia, abdominal pain and cramps, hearing damage, learning disability, slow growth,……..

Where are we exposed to lead?

Lead may be found everywhere –  in the food, house paint, toys, cosmetics, lead batteries, etc. If a blood lead test is conducted we will find that some of us have unacceptable blood lead level. According to tests conducted by organisations working towards spreading awareness of lead poisoning, 51% of children in cities in India have blood lead level of more that 10mcg/dl. Until you are using products that mention ‘lead free’ on the label, you may be surrounded by many products in an around the house that contain lead.

lead 2

  1. Fuel: You might have heard of the term ‘unleaded petrol’.  The good news is – as part of ‘project Lead-Free’ conducted by some organizations, oil companies now offer lead-free petrol. Still in some countries, lead petrol is used.
  2. Paint: According to an expert, any product used for providing colours like colouring powders and crayons may contain lead. In India nowadays we get unleaded paint. But paint companies can mislead the consumers with confusing ads. There is a difference between ‘no lead’ and ‘no added lead’. A smart consumer must be able to detect the difference.
  3. Glass: The translucent and colourless glass is mostly given the attractive colours using lead.
  4. Water:  If your home or the housing colony has a lead based piping system, then lead is leaching into your drinking water.
  5. Newspaper Ink: The ink used in newspapers and magazines may contain lead. So when you wrap food items in newpapers, the lead in ink might be absorbed by the food.
  6. Trinkets:During the Christmas season , a shop keeper in the US had to remove all the trinkets containing high level of lead kept for sale.
  7. Lunch Box:Then cheap colourful  lunchboxes  might have some amount of lead.
  8. Painted Pottery:  Thanks to the interest of foreign tourist in painted pots, shopkeeper voluntarily say that the pots are not painted with lead paint.

What are the precautions?

  • Check if your house was painted with lead paint and if the water contains lead.
  • Avoid tinned food sealed lead soldering. Buy lipsticks that are lead free.
  • Do not cover food with printed side of plastic covers as the print might contain lead.
  • If you children play with peeled paint or soil; check the soil and pain for lead concentration.
  • Maintaining hygiene at home by asking children to wash hands before and after meals.

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