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Toxic lead found in raw food items in Kolkata

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  23 Oct 2017 12:00 AM GMT

Kolkata, Oct 22: The presence of a high concentration of lead has been detected in raw food items such as polished rice and fish, sold in city markets, says a team of Indian scientists. The scientists have highlighted the linkages of the presence of the toxic substance with diesel combustion. The observations are based on recent studies carried out by a group of scientists lead by Avijit Das, Chemist of Geological Survey of India (GSI).

“The raw food items, sold near the streets of Kolkata, contain a mean lead concentration between 3.78 and 43.35 mg/kg (average 23.56 mg/kg) which is very high compared to the threshold value of 2.5mg/kg specified by Food Safety and Standards Regulation (2011), India,” a statement from the Geological Survey of India said on Sunday.

The study also revealed that about 75 per cent of the lead contamition in the food items sold in Kolkata street markets, was contributed by atmospheric lead, mainly produced by combustion of diesel.

The current reference range for acceptable blood lead concentrations in healthy persons without excessive exposure to environmental sources of lead is less than 0.05 mg/L for children whereas, it is less than 0.25Amg/L for adults (as per American/European standards). Lead (Pb) is a highly toxic element and its prolonged exposure to humans can cause permanent damage to the kidneys, liver and hematologic systems.

Children are more at risk because lead exposure can reverse their brain growth and cause irreversible damage to their overall health system. Samples of eight items — polished rice, red lentil (masoor dal), red spich, chicken, fish (without scales), biscuits, spice (cumin seeds) and a common medicil herb (holy basil or tulsi) — were collected from 12 roadside markets covering the north, south, east and west of Kolkata.

Soil and vegetables samples were collected from Dhapa Ground, alongside the EM Bypass, for the study of lead contamition while street dust samples were sourced from major roads north and south of Kolkata. Coal samples from Jharia and Ranigunj were alysed for the presence of atmospheric lead from the use of coal.

The study also included alysis of gale (ore of lead) samples from Alwar (Rajasthan) to calculate the Lead Isotope Ratio (LIR) of Indian lead; rain water and diesel samples were collected from Kolkata. LIR is a modern method used to ascertain the sources of lead exposure.

To compare the level of contamition in sediments and vegetables found in Dhapa, soil and vegetable samples were collected from a relatively less polluted place called Ichapur (Control Site), located about 30 km north of Kolkata. As far as the lead concentration in the street dust is concerned the findings are “worrisome”.

The mean concentration of Pb found in the 29 sites was 383.2 mg/kg with a range from 23.82 mg/kg to a very high value of 2697.24 mg/kg at Amherst Street in north Kolkata. (IANS)

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