Fatal food

  • 14/01/1999

The average daily diet of an Indian contains 0.27mg of DDT, reported The Hindu in 1991. Since then, researchers and scientists believe this amount has gone up much further. But systematic, all-India studies are lacking. Despite these hurdles, The Pesticide Trust's book The Pesticide Hazard: A Global Health and Environment Audit , published in 1993, has managed to cull information that is sure to frighten every Indian citizen. In India, where infant milk formula in Punjab, Gujarat and Mumbai had DDT in all four samples tested, can anyone be safe?

l The United Nations-sponsored Global Monitoring Programme chose India as part of a 10-nation survey for studying pesticide residues in human breast milk. The results are frightening: studies of 50 women showed DDT and BHC residues at least four times higher than those in other countries.

l A similar study of breast milk and maternal blood serum of 25 women from Delhi, tested three days after delivery, revealed high levels of aldrin and dieldrin.

l A government study detected pesticide residues in vegetables. Seven out of eight chillies studied contained 100 to 160 times the permissible levels of malathion and other pesticides.

l Out of 104 samples of cereals, pulses, milk, eggs, meat and vegetables analysed, 108 contained pesticides, 88 had traces of more than one pesticide and 69 had residues more than the permissible limits.

l Cereal and cereal produce in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh (UP), Delhi, Mumbai and Andhra Pradesh (AP) showed DDT in 53 per cent of 1,651 samples.

l Pulses in Punjab and AP had DDT in 25 per cent of 171 samples, vegetables had DDT in 27 per cent of 2,154 samples and fruits had DDT in 14 per cent of 90 samples.

l Meat in Delhi Punjab, AP and UP had DDT in 96 per cent of 134 samples and HCH in 90 per cent.

l Milk in Delhi and AP had DDT in 95 per cent of 980 samples, HCH in 90 per cent and dieldrin in one per cent.

A 1996 study in Delhi found pesticide residues in mother's milk, blood, and in infant blood (in milligram per litre (mg/l))
Infant Blood
DDT 1,270 0.271 0.135
BHC 0.327 0.050 0.033
  • According to WHO Acceptable Daily Intake(ADI) for DDT is 0.005 mg per kg of bodyweight.
  • A mother in Delhi on an average passes on 1.27mg of DDT in every litre of her milk. If her baby weighs 3kg and consumes 500ml of milk daily, it will ingest 0.21 mg of DDT per Kg of bodyweight everyday.
  • This is 42 times greater than the recommended ADI.

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