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India’s Lead Problem: More Than Just Instant Noodles

Earlier this month, there was a lead poisoning scare involving Maggi instant noodles manufactured in India. The company promptly pulled the product and samples were sent to the Maharashtra Food and Drugs Administration for testing. The results – most of the samples were found to have lead, but within the permissible limits of 2.5 parts per million.

While the story got a lot of attention, our colleagues in the India Alliance on Health (IAHP) and Pollution pointed out that “India does not have a noodle problem, it has a lead problem…”

Dr. Subhojit DeyAssociate Professor, Indian Institute of Public Health, wrote this insightful piece on behalf of IAHP, published in the Economic Times.  In it, he points out that toxic lead affects 1.5 to 2 million people in India alone.

Children are the most vulnerable, especially those under six. Dr. Dey explains how lead works once it accumulates in the body:

If lead is available, the body confuses it with more essential elements like calcium and begins using lead to make bones, muscles, brain connections etc.

Imagine having toxic lead as the building blocks in your body.  The consequences?

Existing studies estimate that Indian children under 12 have a mean blood lead level (BLL) of 10 µg/dl which is twice the levels considered in USA as level of concern or “action level”. The loss of IQ of Indian children due to such high lead levels is resulting in $236.1 billion (12.5% of India’s GDP) in economic productivity every year.

And the causes of lead exposure in India come from far more potent sources than noodles.

 Aside from fuel, lead exposure in India occurs from paints, canned food, old pipes in the drinking water system, cosmetics, indigenous medicine systems and the battery/plastic recycling industry.

As Dr. Dey concludes:

India does not have a noodle problem, it has a lead problem, and we need to deal with it.

Read the entire article – Problems of lead and human health in India – Maggi hardly ‘leads’ it


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