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