Home truths

Modern houses are suffused with harmful chemicals. One of them is lead, present in paints. It is banned in several countries but not in India.

The Centre for Science and Environment tested popular paints in India for lead content. It found 72 per cent of the samples had lead much higher than the voluntary limit specified by the Bureau of Indian Standards. Only the Dulux brand of ICI was lead-free; Asian Paints cleaned up later. What implications does it have for our health? Why is no one limiting harmful chemicals in household products?

George W Bush did not need to invade Iraq to find chemical weapons. He would have found them right inside his house. Not just his house but everybody else's. They do not come inside menacing iron shells, or use rocket propellants to launch themselves for an attack.Instead they come in plastic containers, small enough to fit into one's palm, innocuous enough for a five-year-old to play with and deadly enough to cause cancer or kidney failure. Small wonder household chemicals cause about seven million accidents every year, as Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons in the US found. Many of them fool the careful also, for they enter their bodies invisibly and poison them slowly, unlike the chemicals used in warfare.

Look around you these harmful chemicals may be lurking inside your detergent, toys, glass cleaner, room freshener and furniture, or on your shirt, walls and cars. But you may not know because labels on household products in India do not give the exact chemical composition. They are not bound to. Apart from electronic goods and food products, most everyday household products have only voluntary standards, said a senior member of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).

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