Think before you paint clay idols

Gold paint and glitter, usually painted on clay idols, have high lead content

September 25, 2018 09:07 pm | Updated 09:07 pm IST

Almost every idol was adorned with shiny paint of gold or silver.

Almost every idol was adorned with shiny paint of gold or silver.

This Ganesh Chaturthi, the authorities and residents’ associations spearheaded awareness campaigns on eco-friendly idols made of clay. However, what went unchecked for the most part was the glitter paint that adorned almost very idol.

UL, a global safety science company with an accredited lab in the city, tested a sample of 10 Ganesha idols for heavy metals against Indian standards for toy materials, and the result was telling.

Gold paint and glitter, usually also painted on clay idols, had high lead content. The lead content in the gold paint tested was 15,964 Parts Per Million (ppm) while gold glitter had 8,488 ppm of lead. Silver glitter, used for the same purpose, had 2,732 ppm of lead.

The Indian and international standards for lead in toy material is 90 ppm.

Painted Ganesha idols not only had high lead content, but also traces of chromium and barium. However, with the exception of one sample of maroon paint where the presence of chromium shot above permissible levels, other samples had chromium and barium content below permissible levels for toy materials.

Most paints reported far higher lead content than permissible. Purple paint sample reported 11,170 ppm, dark pink 6,423 ppm and green paint 2,145 ppm of lead.

Dr. Thuppil Venkatesh, chairman, National Reference Centre for Lead Projects in India, said that for every coloured Ganesha idol, around 16 grams of lead was entering the water stream. “Gold and yellow paints have the highest lead content. Buying clay idols, but getting parts of them painted golden only defeats the purpose,” he said. “We have tried disrupting the supply and distribution chains, but have failed. Next year, we plan to distribute over 10,000 plastic moulds of Ganesha and distribute clay to schools and colleges to take clay idols to the people on a mass scale,” he said.

Lakshman, Chairman, Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) said that the board has been carrying out awareness campaigns for many years to use only herbal paints or unpainted clay idols. However, he said most of the enforcement was concentrated on preventing plaster of Paris idols.

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