Lead exposure

The New York City Health Department Jan. 30 warned the Indian American and larger South Asian community that some traditional consumer products used by them can contain lead, a harmful metal that can cause serious health problems in both children and adults. (1.nyc.gov photo)

Unsafe consumer products, including some traditional health remedies, spices, cosmetics and religious powders, present high risk of lead exposure for families from Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, the New York City Health Department warned Jan. 30, with the launch of a new awareness campaign on lead exposure specifically for the Indian American and larger South Asian community.

The campaign is part of Mayor de Blasio’s LeadFreeNYC, a roadmap to identify and eradicate lead health risks in New York City.

Though peeling lead paint remains as the primary source of lead exposure in young children among all races and ethnicities, some traditional consumer products used in the South Asian community can contain lead, the health department informed in a press release.

These products, it explained, include cosmetics and religious powders like kohl, kajal, surma and sindoor; spices bought in South Asian countries, especially turmeric and chili powders; and certain Ayurvedic medicines.

The campaign advises New Yorkers about the health risks of lead exposure, provides recommendations on how to reduce exposure and encourages blood lead testing for those who use or come into contact with imported South Asian products.

The campaign, which will appear in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, in communities with large South Asian populations, will run in English, Hindi, Urdu, and Bengali. Ads will also appear on bus shelters, newspapers, neighborhood shops and online, and an accompanying brochure will be widely distributed, added the department.

The health department highlighted that lead is a harmful metal that can cause serious health problems in both children and adults. When exposed to lead, children can develop learning and behavior problems, it said, adding that in adults, lead exposure can increase the risk of miscarriage in pregnant women and infertility in both men and women.

“Some South Asian cosmetics, religious powders, Ayurvedic medicines and spices can contain lead, but lead may not be listed on the products’ packaging,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “We want the South Asian community to be aware of this potential hazard and be careful when using these types of products. Children and pregnant women who use these products are especially at risk, but lead can be harmful to people of all ages. The more often a person uses these products, the greater the health risk. Users of these types of products should speak with their doctor and ask for a blood lead test.”

The $500,000 campaign will run through March.

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