Setting stan­dards

Tests by CSE’s Pol­lu­tion Mon­i­tor­ing Lab­o­ra­tory have set bench­marks for gov­ern­ment pol­icy

Down to Earth - - COVER STORY -

THE CEN­TRE for Sci­ence and En­vi­ron­ment’s (CSE) Pol­lu­tion Mon­i­tor­ing Lab­o­ra­tory (PML) was es­tab­lished in 2000 to in­ves­ti­gate issues of pub­lic health and re­spond to com­mu­nity re­quests. Over the years, it has con­ducted sev­eral stud­ies to put out in­de­pen­dent in­for­ma­tion in the pub­lic do­main for eco­log­i­cal se­cu­rity and set bench­marks for gov­ern­ment pol­icy and

stan­dards. The first study was in 2000 on en­do­sul­fan poi­son­ing in Kasar­god, Ker­ala. Us­ing this, the state gov­ern­ment im­posed a ban on the use of this chem­i­cal. In 2003, PML tested for pes­ti­cides in bot­tled wa­ter. The brands avail­able in the mar­ket were found to con­tain multiple pes­ti­cides at lev­els far ex­ceed­ing the stan­dards spec­i­fied as safe for drink­ing wa­ter. The same year, PML tested for pes­ti­cides in soft drinks. Pes­ti­cides were found in all sam­ples. The study prompted the food au­thor­i­ties in the coun­try to set up stan­dards for pes­ti­cide residue in car­bon­ated bev­er­ages.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion re­ceived re­quests from peo­ple in Pun­jab who wanted CSE to in­ves­ti­gate the un­usu­ally high num­ber of can­cer cases in the state. PML con­ducted tests, and in 2005, it found high lev­els of pes­ti­cides in farm­ers’ blood. A can­cer reg­istry has since been set up in the area to study this cor­re­la­tion. There is much greater aware­ness about the dan­gers of pes­ti­cides and farm­ers and con­sumers are now clear: they want safe food.

In 2009, PML found lead in paints in much higher lev­els than those pre­scribed. The Central Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Board has now set strin­gent stan­dards. That year, ed­i­ble oils were tested for the presence of trans­fats and found that the lev­els in vanas­pati were 5-12 times higher than the world stan­dard. Stan­dards were set af­ter the study and In­dia is now work­ing to elim­i­nate trans­fats from the food chain. PML’s study in 2010, which found high lev­els of an­tibi­otics in honey, catal­ysed the Food Safety and Stan­dards Au­thor­ity of In­dia (FSSAI) to set an­tibi­otic stan­dards for honey. In 2014, PML ran tests on poul­try chicken and showed that life-sav­ing an­tibi­otics were be­ing ram­pantly fed to poul­try and that this could be con­tribut­ing to in­creas­ing re­sis­tance to an­tibi­otics in the coun­try. In 2016, CSE's study found sev­eral bread-mak­ing and bak­ery units were us­ing a car­cino­gen called potas­sium bro­mate in bread. The chem­i­cal's use in bak­ery has since been banned. In 2017, PML es­tab­lished the spread of multi-drug re­sis­tance from poul­try farms to farm­lands.

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