Banned in US, ek chutki sindoor still going strong in India

The bindi, the ubiquitous mark on the forehead of Indian women is facing a problem in the distant United States where a manufacturer has been forced to withdraw a batch along with other cosmetics products from the market owing to its high lead content. In the land of its birth, the bindi, however, continues to be manufactured unchecked as there is no agency to monitor the usage and harmful effects of spurious products. "The cosmetics industry is not at all regulated in India. There's no apex body to control this in India', said Deepak Vohra, a cosmetologist. "What's worse is the fact that most of the branded products in the market do not carry the mandatory label of ingredients, colouring agent (chemicals used) and Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) mark and no declaration whatsoever that that the products are manufactured from any carcinogenic or any harmful ingredients', Vohra added. According to experts, sindoor or kumkum readily available in market often contains high amount of lead, which heightens the risk of poisoning. Lead exposure can result in a wide range of biological effects, depending upon the level and duration of exposure. Synthetic sindoor can cause serious dermatological disorders like irritation, skin toxicity, eczema, leucoderma. Long-term exposure to even low levels of lead can cause irreversible learning difficulties, mental retardation, and delayed neurological and physical development, doctors say. "It has been proved repeatedly that the metals like lead and mercury, used in such cosmetics, can be absorbed through skin and permeate into internal organs causing irreparable damages,' says Rishi Parashar, a doctor of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. "These toxic elements after entering human body can harmevery organ in the human body, especially the brain, kidney and reproductive system, ' he adds.