"Getting The Lead Out Of Spices In Bangladesh And Georgia"

"Many low- and middle-income countries lack the resources to tackle lead poisoning. Here’s how two countries did it."

"NEW YORK CITY — In 1988, turmeric producers in Bangladesh had a problem. The country sits on the world’s largest delta, where three rivers empty into the Bay of Bengal, flooding annually and leaving behind rich soils that farmers depend on. That year, all three rivers reached their peaks within a matter of days, creating a deluge that submerged three quarters of the country and killed at least 2,000 people.

When the floods subsided, farmers found black and soggy turmeric roots — unappealing to prospective buyers, even if the raw spice remained intact.

Turmeric polishers, who prepare the roots for sale, found a solution: a quick polish to smooth the exterior then a dusting of a yellow pigment to enhance the natural color.

They didn’t know the powder was poison. They were adding lead chromate, a toxic material used in paints and plastics for its yellow hue. The practice persisted for decades until research collaborators from Bangladesh and the United States uncovered the problem."

Tatum McConnell reports for Environmental Health News September 25, 2023 as part of the "Tracking Down A Poison" series.


"Tracking Down A Poison: Inside The Fight For Global Action On Lead" (EHN)

Source: EHN, 10/06/2023