A new study conducted by Rutgers University in the US has indicated the presence of unsafe levels of lead in cosmetic powder sindoor, which is used in Hindu religious and cultural ceremonies.

The powder is used by Hindu women to place a red dot on their foreheads.

The university’s School of Public Health researchers analysed 118 sindoor samples collected from 95 stores in New Jersey, and 23 stores in Mumbai and New Delhi.

It was found that 83% of samples from the US and 78% from India had a minimum of 1µg lead per 1g of cosmetic powder.

"The tests also revealed that 19% of US samples and 43% Indian samples had more than 20µg of lead per 1g."

The tests also revealed that 19% of US samples and 43% Indian samples had more than 20µg of lead per 1g, exceeding the limit set by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

While the FDA had previously banned eye products such as kajal and tiro that are used in India and Nigeria, it issued a general warning regarding sindoor.

Based on the new study, researchers have said that lead levels in the cosmetic powder have to be monitored and the public should be made aware of the potential hazards.

School of Public Health Epidemiology professor William Halperin said: “We should be screening children from the South Asian community to make sure they do not have elevated levels of lead in their blood before we discover more dead brain cells.”


Image: Red cosmetic powder called sindoor is found to have unsafe lead levels. Photo: courtesy of Annishaikh1990.