Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hazards: Lead Found in Indian Spices and Powders

To my knowledge , I have always been thinking that lead that can harm people comes from house paint, imported toys and other sources but I never once thought lead could come from spices or herbs that are perceived to be natural.

The article from New York Times on March 22, 2010 reported lead being found in Indian spices and powders. In Indian ceremonies they use vermilion powder to apply along the hair line or as a dot to the forehead. Pediatricians at Children's Hospital in Boston and Massachusetts Public Health tested 157 products after 4 young children were refered to a Hospital with elevated blood lead levels. 50% of these products were reportedly contaminated with lead according to researchers involved, 81% of these contaminated products were ceremonial powders and other cosmetic products used in Indian ceremonies and 19% were from Spices and Herbs. Rabin (2010) reported that Indian Children as young as 3 years old use powder applied to their forehead regularly for religious ceremonies.

I am not sure how the Public Health Department will handle the issue like this, especially when religion is involved with all the laws around that. These people are not doing these to harm the children, it is their religious belief and culture and yet the department of Public Health may attempt to try to protects these children but it can be challenging because this seems to be the delicate area especially if Government laws and religious belief gets involved.

Posted by Anna Moreno


  1. I think the Public Health Department should try and band the use of these powders on people's heads because of religious ceremonies, especially if the people are applying it to the heads of children. These children do not know better and someone needs to protect them. Just because it has been religion doesn't give someone the right to harm another person. I don't know if lead in the powders can cause death but just from the fact children have gone to the hospital already for high blood pressure is enough for me.

    Posted by Kayla Perry

  2. The Public Health Department definitely needs to take care of this issue as soon as possible. I think health is a lot more important than a religious practice. There are a lot of other herbs or spices that don't contain lead, so I think it would be much more wise to switch this practice.

    Posted by Ryan Brooks

  3. I understand that this could become a church vs state issue, but honestly what indian family is going to want to continue exposing themselves to these dangerous substances. Even if it is religious ritual to use these spices and herbs lead can be extremely harmful, applying make-up with lead in it is what caused the "mad hatters" syndrome in old English times. The children involved in these rituals are at more risk than anyone and also cannot possibly be expected to look out for themselves. My mom took me to church almost every weekend, against my will most of the time, and if they had been doing something dangerous there I wouldn't have known any better I was just following what my mom was doing. The Indian culture can certainly find a new make-up for making red dots along their hairline or use different spices in their recipes. This really is a no-brainer at least from my perspective. There is no reason to cause harm to children and adults alike because a certain contaminate was previously used in rituals.

    -Tom Roper

  4. I believe that the adults who do such practices on their kids must be strictly informed of the consequences. Doing so is a form of abuse. There also must be an alternative with the use of something safer than leaded spice. Providing alternatives is probably the best way to deal with the situation of religion vs health.

    Posted by Vinh Tran

  5. Tom brings up a good point in coming up with another form of making their makeup to preserve their religious practices. I'm pretty sure that no religion wants to harm its followers so there shouldn't be a reason not to change certain rituals, especially since light has been shed on this particular case.

    Posted by Charly Almonte

  6. I find this article very interesting. I agree that this could become a church vs. state problem with the fact that the government could control what was used in a religious practice however,exposing people to lead is very dangerous especially children. I agree that there should be an alternative way to practice these rituals with other substances. People may argue that is wasn't a problem in the past but that doesn't mean that it couldn't be a problem in the future. I for one would rather not chance it. I'm just wondering how this was discovered after so many years of it's use? Why is it now that this is being discovered?
    -Valerie Silva-

  7. Thank all of you for comments, I believe there is a possibility these parents were not aware of lead being in these products or may be they were not aware of this being harmfull to their children. I agree that they should find another alternative of powders or spices to use. But this may require extensive education to these people and possibly their culture or religious leaders may need to know this information. But it may not be very easy to convince them especially if they have been practicing this for many generations or their ancestors. But all in all I found this article very interesting.

    Posted by Anna Moreno.