Indian Spices, Powders Linked to Lead Poisoning

"My mother and a lot of people I know make it by mixing turmeric powder with lime to make it red and then it is mixed with camphor and some other herbs," said Sarma, who was born in India. "Sometimes the rock of alum is also used to make it."

Caution on Tumeric Spice for Children

She is more concerned about the use of tumeric, a yellow spice that is a staple of Indian cooking and has purported health benefits.

"I am going to rethink the use of store-bought ground spices and will grind up my own from fresh ingredients," she said. "I am especially concerned about the possibility of lead in turmeric since I use a pinch in whatever I make. It has always considered good as an anti-inflammatory and an anti-septic.

Diana Rohini LaVigne of Fremont, Calif., who is the bureau chief for NRI Achievers Magazine, said she was "shocked" and "terribly concerned" about the study.

"I'm in my seventh month of pregnancy and use imported Indian spices for cooking nearly daily," she said. "If this is harming children, it can probably severely harm or even kill a fetus which is still in development and can't protect itself from such hazards as well as children can."

LaVigne also uses powder on herself, but now says she will have to consider changing their family's eating habits.

"This is tragic news to our family as we cook Indian food about 90 percent of the time and use all the imported spices," she said. "In fact, when my mother-in-law comes over to stay with us in a couple of months to help with the newborn...she only cooks Indian food, so what does this mean to us?"

But Tilak, the mother from Ashland, Mass., isn't daunted by the curries her extended family has been preparing for generations, even with two children in the house. She'll just be more careful.

"As with any other product, where these items are purchased are an important consideration," she said. "With this in mind, yes, there needs to be stricter regulation to ensure that these inferior quality products are not marketed to consumers."

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