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What's your daily diet of lead?

At a time when the rising costs of vegetables and greens are worrying you, here is a reason to be all the more concerned them. The average lead concentration in spinach grown on the beds of some lakes near the city is way above safe limits, says a study. The maximum permissible concentration of lead in food by Indian standards is 2.5 mg/kg. However, the coriander grown on some of the lake-beds has been found to have a lead concentration of 9.25 mg/kg (dry mass).

These facts came to light in a study by the Department of Chemistry, Government Science College, last year.

The National Referral Centre for Lead Poisoning in India, along with principal advisor to Quality Council of India Tuppil Venkatesh, guided the study. The referral centre is located on the premises of St. John's Medical College. Explaining that lead contamination of food has been on the rise due to pollution from industry and automobiles, Mr. Venkatesh said, “Besides metallic toys being a source of lead poisoning, other articles such as lead pencils, house and furniture paint, batteries, water pipes and sealing cement are the other sources.”

Organic lead emitted from cars, on inhalation, gets easily absorbed into the brain, liver, kidney and blood, which becomes accumulative poison leading to brain damage, muscular paralysis, convulsions and even death, he said.

The samples collected from a Lalbagh outlet and City Market showed lead concentration of 5.08 mg/kg. Explaining the highlights of the study, Mr. Venkatesh told The Hindu that nugge and arave samples too were found to contain lead concentration of 2.65 mg/kg and 2.4 mg/kg, respectively.

“While spinach samples collected from lakes around Vrishabhavathi Valley showed high concentration, those from Nayandahalli Lake were found to have a concentration of 8.55 mg/kg. Truckloads of fodder extracted from Vrishabhavathi Valley had the highest level of lead concentration,” he said.

Pointing out that greens grown on lake-beds near Bellandur and Kengeri too were contaminated, Mr. Venkatesh said: “Lead poisoning causes irreversible health damages in children, even at very low levels of exposure. Some of these are reduced IQ, hyperactivity, impaired growth and learning disability, hearing loss and insomnia.”

According to K.C. Raghu, a city-based nutritionist, green leafy vegetables are the most concentrated source of nutrition. They are a rich source of minerals and vitamins, including vitamins K, C, E, and many of the Bs.

They also provide a variety of phytonutrients, which protect our cells from damage and our eyes from age-related problems. “They also contain small amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids (the ‘healthy fat') and should be a part of our daily diet.”

As the lead content in greens can not be washed away, wash them well in salt and lime water before cooking, he advised.

AFSHAN YASMEEN

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