India Serves Up Toxic Vegetables

BANGALORE: The next time you go to buy vegetables in the market, check if they are coming from villages around Varthur Tank, Bellandur Tank, Byramangala Tank and Nagawara Tank areas, for a recent study conducted by city-based Indian Institute of Horticulture Research (IIHR) has revealed that vegetables grown in these areas contain heavy toxic metal pollutants.

Samples of water, soil and vegetables grown in villages surrounding Vartur tank, Bellandur tank, Byramangala and Nagawara Tank areas, on analysis, showed the presence of toxic metal pollutants especially lead, cadmium, chromium, mercury and arsenic, above permissible limits, said L R Varalakshmi, investigating scientist from the Division of Soil Science and? Agricultural Chemistry, IIHR.

Speaking to The New Indian Express, she said, “As per the standard permissible limit, irrigation water need to have a maximum of 0.5 mg/lts of cadmium, 5.0 mg/kg in case of soils and 1.5 mg/kgs in vegetables. In case of lead, the permissible limit is 2.0 mg/lts for irrigation waters, 100 mg/kg for soils and 2.5 mg/kg in case of vegetables. But samples from all these four areas have shown the toxic metal contents are much above the permissible limits.”

On an average, everyday a person consumes about 200 mg of cadmium, 500 mg of lead and children consume about 250 mg of lead everyday in the area of study. She said, “Peri-urban areas are the major areas contaminated with heavy metals through various anthropogenic activities like smoke and effluent generating industries, sewage, sludge, municipal solid and liquid wastes and burning of fossil fuels.”

In addition, fertilizers, pesticides, batteries, consumer electronics, ceramics, light bulbs, home dust, paint chips, lead foils such as wine bottle closures, used motor oils, plastics also forms a source for heavy metals, she said. Varalakshmi said, “The study was conducted for a period of two years in each of the four areas and recently the results were analysed.”

Talking about the ill-effects of consuming vegetables contaminated with heavy metals, she said, “Simple complications like headache, body cramps, nausea, to more severe disorders like cancers, renal damage, cardiovascular diseases and damage to nervous system are common.”

Dr Venkatesh Thuppil, Principal Investigator, National Referral Centre for Lead Poisoning in India (NRCLPI) said, “Mental retardation, autism, psychosis, hyperactivity are the major illness caused by toxic metals like lead and mercury, and this has a severe impact especially on children.”

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