Sindoor or vermilion adorns the crowns of Indian women. Even NRIs residing in US use this scarlet powder as it holds religious and cultural significance.
It is not just another cosmetic item, it is mandatory for married women. It is often symbolised in Indian cinema and dramas. But is it safe to adorn it on our foreheads?
Study says it may contain unsafe level of lead. Manufacturers use lead tetra-oxide to give it a distinctive red colour.
For this test, 118 samples were studied out of which 95 were sourced from South Asian stores in New Jersey and the rest 23 samples from stores in Mumbai and New Delhi, in India. About 80 per cent of the samples contained traces of lead and one-third of it surpassed the limit set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
"If there is a product that could be contaminated with lead, it's of public health interest. There's possibility of spread through ingestion or inhalation", study author Dr. Derek Shendell of Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey exclaimed while speaking to Deccan Chronicle
The FDA has set a limit for lead in cosmetics which is 20 micrograms per gram. Of the U.S. samplesm 19 per cent, and of the Indian samples, 43 per cent exceeded that limit. Three samples from the U.S. and two from India contained more than 10,000 micrograms per gram.
"Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, ability to pay attention, and academic achievement," warns the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
It is high time that use of this cosmetic powder which exposes us to harmful level of lead is stopped. It may hurt religious sentiments if vermilion is banned all of a sudden. But if one thinks from the health perspective, sindoor should be avoided at all costs. One can come up with safe, herbal alternatives of this product.
There are herbal sindoors available in the stores even now but the question arises on whether genuine ingredients are used in their manufacture.
Only if these herbal sindoors clear the test can the foreheads of Indian women continue sporting the scarlet hue without any associated risk. The Bengali women in India and those residing in US will happily play 'Sindoor-khela' on this year's Durga Puja .
With Inputs From Deccan Chronicle