The importance of Heavy metal testing in India

Introduction

In the latest scenario, three more contemporaries of a recently re-launched food product have caught up in legal jurisdiction for a similar sub-standard level of food sold. The U.P Food and Safety Department picked up packets from a mall. The tests concluded with high levels of ash content evident. This is why heavy metal testing is imperative for food and pharmaceuticals.

The tandem revolving around the presence of excess heavy metals in air, water and land, ultimately making its way into the body of human beings through the medium of food has raised concerns all around the world. Authorities have particularly implied and set rules pertaining to heavy metal testing in all the components of the environment. FSSAI and FDA are the government bodies that monitor audits and inspections of laboratories, ensuring the systemic pipeline function.

The problem:

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Heavy metals have a profound use in the present era of industrialization. They are abundantly present in the earth’s crust and a small, yet permissible amount is present in plants and animals. These are processed by the Cytochrome P450 enzymes present in the liver and eventually excreted out. However, the anthropological activities have lead to excessive influx of these heavy metals into the living biomass. The inefficient transformation of such high quantities causes their accumulation and further implications to human body. The entire flora and fauna of the contaminated area is affected which becomes visible over a course of time.

According to the article ‘Heavy Metals Toxicity and the Environment’ published in Molecular, Clinical and Environmental Toxicology journal, the author states

“Their (Heavy metals) toxicity depends on several factors including the dose, route of exposure, and chemical species, as well as the age, gender, genetics, and nutritional status of exposed individuals. Because of their high degree of toxicity, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury rank among the priority metals that are of public health significance. These metallic elements are considered systemic toxicants that are known to induce multiple organ damage, even at lower levels of exposure. They are also classified as human carcinogens (known or probable) according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.”

Action taken:

Government authorities have, therefore, focused their attention on heavy metal testing for air, water, soil, pharmaceuticals and food samples. All the sample types have set a fixed, permissible levels of heavy metal content, beyond which, strict actions are to be implemented. National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) is an autonomous body under the aegis of Department of Science & Technology and is registered under the Societies Act 1860. It is assigned and authorized by the Government of India for assessment of testing and calibration of laboratories. Their accreditation is imperative for a laboratory to authorize the tests, especially heavy metal testing.

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Samples are collected from various sites and accurate, intricate test results are certified. Any imports or exports are first tested before they are made available to the public. The all clear certificate is a proof that NABL has sanctioned the credibility of the laboratory as well as the goods. Any manipulation found may lead to legal action- fine, imprisonment or both.

Needless to say, contamination of biosphere by heavy metal testing has caused various ill- effects.

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The Minamata disease caused in Japan is world renowned due to release of methyl mercury in the waters. The bioaccumulation in fishes and shellfishes and the consumption of the same by local populace was the core of the disease. The identification of root cause took a long while with effective heavy metal testing (in this case, Mercury). 

Similar problems keep re-surfacing all around the globe.

The pesticide residue present in the soil over the time renders the fertile land futile. The mining procedures cause excessive heavy metal dust in the air, inviting respiratory diseases. Quite a few biological tactics have been implemented but phytoremediation, bioaccumulation to reuse the metals and chelating therapy make take a long course of time to undo the detrimental effects of the same.

Heavy metals in drugs, both in their active ingredients and the drug delivery molecules are carefully monitored. Adequate precautions and warnings of the possible side effects need to be clearly stated, both in and out of the pack.

Heavy metal testing is a stepping stone to identify, prevent and cure to take world health a notch higher.

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