Young children who regularly ingest Indian spices and ceremonial powders like vermilion, or sindoor, may be exposed to lead, a dangerous neurotoxin, an American study has claimed.
The study carried out by researchers at Children's Hospital Boston and the Harvard School of Public Health found that about 25 per cent of Indian spices available in the US such as cardamom, fenugreek and chili powder contain more than one microgram of lead per gram of product.
And about 65 per cent of the ceremonial powders such as vermilion -- commonly used to mark newborn Indian infants for religious and cultural purposes -- contained the same amount of the toxic heavy metal, the 'Time' magazine reported online.
The research, published in the latest issue of journal Pediatrics, was conducted after several reports of lead poisoning in Indian children in the Boston area were linked to consumption of Indian spices, said the report.
Though the levels are below the European Union's acceptable threshold of two to three mcg/g of lead, the authors of the study said the presence of lead in these products, regardless of the amount, is a reason for concern as they could potentially add to exposure from other sources of the neurotoxin in a child's environment.
With repeated exposure at high enough levels, lead can cause cognitive damage and behavioural changes in children. In severe cases of prolonged poisoning, however, the "cognitive and developmental damage may be permanent", says Dr Cristiane Lin, the lead author of the study.