High lead content found in painted idols

Over 60 per cent of the Ganesha idols, collected for a joint study, were found to have high lead content. The National Referral Centre for Lead Poisoning in India (NRCLPI), St John's National Academy of Health Sciences, and environmental officers from the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board conducted the study using about 22 samples. Lead is the lead environment polluter.

The NRCLPI team screened the idols 21 times to check for various metal contents with the help of X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF). A hand-held analyser, XRF does rapid, accurate analysis of heavy metals like lead, mercury, cadmium and cobalt.

According to the team, over 60 per cent of lead content was found in yellow and gold paints. Around 30 per cent of arsenic was detected and 10 per cent of cobalt was found.

The team also conducted tests for cadmium and mercury, but these were not detected. Lead content was also found in pink, green and black colours.

Initiated by Dr Venkatesh Thuppil from NRCLPI and KSPCB member secretary Puttabuddhi, the test holds significance as idols are immersed in water bodies. Toxic metals can enter the food chain through cattle that feed on the vegetation growing in these water bodies, or through fish.

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