Health hazards of sindoor

Health hazards of sindoor

Written by Editorial Team |Updated : August 11, 2015 3:32 PM IST

Read this in Hindi.

Sindoor, also popularly known as kumkum in the southern part of India, is commonly used by all married Hindu women as it signifies the sacred bond of marriage. Sindoor is regularly used along the parting of the hair. Some women even use it to make a dot on the forehead, called bindi. In olden days, sindoor was made at home using turmeric powder, alum, calcium salt, camphor, saffron, sandalwood and beet extracts. However in present times, this sacred red orange powder must be used carefully because it has side effects beyond imagination.

Chemical composition of sindoor

The synthetic dye industry grows low-priced red dyes termed as sindoor which are available everywhere and mainly contain the following:

  • Vermillion, reddish orange element which is a powdered form of cinnabar
  • Chemical dyes, lead and other synthetic materials
  • Powered crude red lead, Pb304
  • Rhodamine B dye
  • Mercury sulphite

There are many unbranded blood red powders available at cheap rates in the market, because the manufacturers aim at producing any local dye which is readily available along with toxic substances and other bulking materials. These can render rich colour that is attractive and most women don t look at ingredients when buying sindoor.

Side effects of using sindoor

Apart from rashes, itching, hair loss, other problems that can be caused include:

  • Skin cancer, due to mercury sulphite
  • Hereditary disorders, due to rhodamine B dye
  • Itching and dandruff problems
  • Food poisoning, if consumed by mistake
  • Harmful for brain, kidney, eyes and reproductive system if inhaled, absorbed or eaten
  • Lead poisoning or lead nephropathy (Read: 7 harmful chemicals in beauty products that can ruin skin)

Ways to stay safe from the side effects of sindoor

  • Use natural components like turmeric and alum to make sindoor
  • Avoid using the cheap powder available in the market
  • Use red lipstick or a red liner as an alternative
  • Use it on special occasions
  • Use herbal sindoor
  • Avoid buying the product if manufactured with carcinogenic substances
  • Invest in good brands which do not contain unacceptable amount of lead and read the ingredients used before buying
  • Be careful not to take it internally by accident or while bathing
  • Consult a skin specialist if a major change is noticed
  • Be sure to wipe it off before going to bed as exposure for long duration can lead to infection
  • Keep it away from the reach of small children
  • Use small amount of sindoor; an inch rather than covering the entire parting of the hair
  • Use liquid form, it does not smudge, as the harmful impact can be reduced
  • Wash hands after use (Read: 9 harmful chemicals in soaps which can ruin skin)

Make your own sindoor at home

Making sindoor at home is an easy process and requires the following:

  • Turmeric
  • Mineral lime
  • Water
  • Mix them in equal amounts, add water to make a paste
  • Form small balls and leave it for drying in the sun
  • Crush the dried balls and natural sindoor is ready
  • Store it in an air tight container

Preventive measures being taken on a global front

  • Strict regulations are being implemented on the cosmetic industry to use a specific amount of lead so that harmful effect to the skin can be minimised.
  • ISO procedure is being implemented so that manufacturing process is under scrutiny.
  • Eco marked products are being introduced, which ensure safety, quality and performance standards set by the Bureau of Indian Standards.
  • Presence of lead in cosmetics in many countries is banned.

Sindoor or kumkum is one of the major factors which lead to lead poisoning, especially in the rural areas where application of sindoor in large quantities is a must for every married woman. It is high time that people become aware of its side effects and take precautionary measures. Buying it from local market where it is sold in loose power form must be strictly avoided and restricted.

Photo source: Getty images

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1. Lead nephropathy due to Sindoor in India.

Kute VB, shrimali JD, Balwani MR, Godhani UR, Vanikar AV, Shah PR, Gumber MR, Patel HV, Trivedi HL.

Ren Fail. 2013 Jul;35(6):885-7. doi: 10.3109/0886022X.2013.801301. Epub 2013 Jun 5.

2. Case of elevated blood lead in a South Asian family that has used Sindoor for food coloring.

Vassilev ZP, Marcus SM, Ayyanathan K, Ciuffo V, Bogden JD, Kemp FW, Ruck B, Jennis T, Jani N, Halperin W.

ClinToxicol (Phila). 2005;43(4):301-3.