Lead Content of Sindoor, a Hindu Religious Powder and Cosmetic: New Jersey and India, 2014-2015

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Abstract

Objectives

To assess the extent of lead content of sindoor, a powder used by Hindus for religious and cultural purposes, which has been linked to childhood lead poisoning when inadvertently ingested.

Methods

We purchased 95 samples of sindoor from 66 South Asian stores in New Jersey and 23 samples from India and analyzed samples with atomic absorption spectrophotometry methods for lead.

Results

Analysis determined that 79 (83.2%) sindoor samples purchased in the United States and 18 (78.3%) samples purchased in India contained 1.0 or more micrograms of lead per gram of powder. For US samples, geometric mean concentration was 5.4 micrograms per gram compared with 28.1 micrograms per gram for India samples. The maximum lead content detected in both US and India samples was more than 300 000 micrograms per gram. Of the examined US sindoor samples, 19% contained more than 20 micrograms per gram of lead (US Food and Drug Administration [FDA] limit); 43% of the India samples exceeded this limit.

Conclusions

Results suggested continued need for lead monitoring in sindoor in the United States and in sindoor carried into the United States by travelers from India, despite FDA warnings.

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