A recent survey conducted by Geological Survey of India (GSI) has found that raw food items sold in most city markets in Kolkata have lead concentrations far above the permissible limit and can permanently damage key human organs.
The study, that was conducted by leading scientists of the GSI, found that 75 per cent of the lead contamination in the food items sold in Kolkata markets was contributed by atmospheric lead, mainly produced by the combustion of diesel.
Samples of raw food items like polished rice, red lentil (masoor dal), red spinach, chicken, fish (without scales), biscuits, spice (cumin seeds) and a common medicinal herb (Holy Basil or Tulsi), collected from 12 markets in the city showed a mean lead (Pb) concentration between 3.78 and 43.35 mg/kg, the average being 23.56 mg/kg.
Prolonged exposure of lead, which is a highly toxic element, to humans can cause permanent damage to the kidneys, liver and hematologic systems. As expected children are more at risk because lead exposure can reverse their brain growth and cause irreversible damage to their overall well being.