Harmful Chemicals that Might be Present in your Powder and Liquid Sindoor


For most Indian women, sindoor is a mark of their sacred marriage. It is an integral part of our rich culture and society, and stands as a norm widely followed in rural and urban areas alike.

Recently, considering the rising cases of skin related problems near the area where sindoor is applied, a test of 3 sindoor samples collected from 2 different villages was conducted to understand and establish a link between these cases and the chemicals present in sindoor. Sindoor sold in rural areas is relatively cheap, thus raising questions about its quality and whether it meets the prevailing standards related to chemicals, and more specifically, heavy metal content in cosmetic products. According to the report, sampled sindoor collected from rural India exceeded the 0.1 Limit of Quantification and even reached upto 31.2 lead content and contained dangerous levels of arsenic and mercury.

However, before we take you through the side effects of using such synthetic sindoor let us understand more about these chemicals.

What is Arsenic, and how are human beings exposed to it?

Arsenic is a natural component that is present in the earth’s crust. It stays distributed in the environment through air, water as well as land. It is a chemical element that generally occurs with the combination of sulfur and metals. Generally, arsenic is used in various products like alloys of lead or as compounds in pesticides; however, in its inorganic form, it has a high level of toxicity.

Generally, we get exposed to high levels of inorganic arsenic that are present in contaminated water or food crops and even in cosmetics like powder and liquid sindoor.

Now let us understand some of the Health Effects of Arsenic.

Inorganic arsenic is highly harmful to your health as it contains carcinogenic compounds. Immediate symptoms of exposure to inorganic arsenic include diarrhoea and abdominal pain, and the long-term effects might consist of changes in skin pigmentation, soles on the feet, as well as skin cancer.

There is no safe limit of arsenic as advertised by some reputable companies. Arsenic is toxic to human beings in whatever amount we are exposed to it.

What is lead, and how are human beings exposed to it?

Lead is heavy metal in comparison to other metals. It is a soft, malleable metal that has quite a low melting point.

We are exposed to lead in various types of ways like environmental contamination due to smelting, mining, use of lead plants as well as leaded petroleum, and aviation fuel. With time we see an additional source of exposure by lead, i.e., in the use of lipsticks, kajal, as well as power and liquid sindoors.

Health Effects of Lead

Lead is a highly poisonous metal and is very dangerous to the life and health of human beings. It can cause severe damage to the brain, kidneys and ultimately lead to fatality.  It also can degrade the myelin sheets present in neurons, thereby reducing their numbers and decreasing neural growth. It can lead to blindness, hearing loss, depression, irritability, headache, memory loss.

What is mercury, and how are human beings exposed to it.

Mercury is a type of chemical element which is liquid at room temperature. It occurs in deposits of mercury sulfide. The red pigment vermilion, which is often used in artificial sindoor, is made using grinding the mercuric sulfide, which is quite dangerous.

Health Effects of Mercury?

Toxic effects of mercury include damages to kidneys, brain as well as lungs. It also can lead to Minamata disease and acrodynia. Some of the symptoms of mercury poisoning include impairment to vision, hearing as well as speech and also affects the neural nerves in such a way leading to a disturbed sensation and a lack of coordination. Long-term exposure of mercury can lead to erethism, fatigue, memory loss as well as depression.

Now Sindoors was supposed to be naturally made with turmeric powder, alum, beet extracts, saffron, sandalwood, and beet extracts. However, due to the rising demand for the product, popular brands now produce artificial sindoor, which is made out of harmful chemicals.

Chemical Composition of Synthetic Powder and Liquid Sindoor-

The sindoor that we generally see in the market contain the following chemicals.

a. Vermillion, which we mentioned, is obtained from the powdered form of cinnabar.

b. Dyes, lead, and other types of synthetic materials.

c. Cruse red lead and Pb304

d. Rhodamine B dye

e. Mercury Sulphite. Also, you will find various types of unbranded sindoors, which are available at really cheap rates as they generally produce these with any local dye and sell it in the market with various types of toxic and harmful materials. It may look really attractive and appealing to most women, but it is really important that one checks the ingredients carefully while purchasing it and whether it is properly ISO certified.

Side Effects of using Artificial Powder and Liquid Sindoor

● Risk of skin cancer due to the use of mercury sulphite.

● Hereditary disorders leading to rhodamine B dye

● Itching as well as problems related to dandruff.

● Food poisoning and diarrhoea, if ingested, are especially applicable to children.

● It affects the brain, kidney, eyes as well as the reproductive system if absorbed or ingested.

● Since most of these sindoors also contain Lead, it can lead to Lead poisoning or lead nephropathy.

How to be Aware of Such Products and Stay Safe?

Following are some points that we recommend you to follow:

a. Try to use natural components or buy sindoor that uses natural components like turmeric and alum.

b. Do not use any cheap vermillion powder that is readily available in the market.

c. Try to use it on special occasions.

d. Consult your skin doctor immediately if you notice any major reactions or changes while using sindoor.

e. Use small amounts of sindoor rather than using an inch and covering the entire parting of the hair.

Wrapping Up

Around the globe today, there has been a significant awareness of toxic chemicals being used in the cosmetic industry; hence strict regulations are being imposed by authorities. In India, the ISO procedure is being implemented strictly for making cosmetics and also, eco-marked products are being introduced. Hence, we would request all of you to be aware and use products that are properly labelled and certified.

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