National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) found that vegetables grown on the Yamuna floodplain contain high doses of Lead which on prolonged consumption, could trigger a range of diseases, including cancer and damage organs.
The highest concentration of such vegetables has been found in east Delhi. These vegetables are supplied to large wholesale mandis across Delhi such as the ones in Azadpur, Okhla, Ghazipur. These vegetables are also distributed further to be sold at weekly markets as well as by local vendors across the city. The heaviest lead contamination was found in coriander collected from east Delhi’s Geeta Colony. lead levels were found to be above the standard in all vegetables collected from vendors, with the highest level found in spinach (14.1 mg/kg). the level of the metal detected in vegetable samples collected from the floodplain ranges from 2.8mg/kg to 13.8mg/kg.
SK Goyal, senior principal scientist and head of NEERI, was quoted in the report saying that samples of at least seven types of winter vegetables were collected from Usmanpur, Mayur Vihar and Geeta Colony. The samples were tested for Lead, Nickel, Mercury, and Cadmium and the lead level was found to be higher than Indian permissible limits. While the level of other metals was within the limits. According to Goyal, the source of lead could be industries dealing in paint, batteries, automobile parts and polythene.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) have set a safe limit for Lead in vegetables at 2.5mg/kg.
According to NEERI study, this metal toxicity can lower energy levels, damage the functioning of the brain, lungs, kidneys, and liver. They can also damage the blood composition and other important organs. Long-term exposure to these metals could even cause cancer.
IARI (Indian Agricultural Research Institute) says that they will consult with scientists to find a solution to this problem.