The demand for turmeric has given rise to a worrisome trend. Reports say that companies in Bangladesh are adding lead chromate to turmeric to make it appear more yellow.

ground turmeric and turmeric
Researchers have found high levels of toxic lead in the popular spice turmeric.

What is lead chromate, and why do people use it to color turmeric?

Lead chromate, a chemical compound comprising lead and chromium, is a yellow pigment that can enhance the brightness of a substance. It is also poisonous, acting as a neurotoxin when humans ingest or inhale it.

Experts consider lead unsafe in any quantity as it leads to cognitive defects. Usually, manufacturers use lead chromate to give yellow and orange oils and paints their color.

However, previous research has identified turmeric as a source of lead exposure across many turmeric-producing districts in Bangladesh.

Turmeric is an essential spice that many people consume daily in South Asia. It also has some medicinal uses. It may potentially treat inflammation and have healing effects across many conditions, including cancer.

Adulteration of spices is not unusual, and the addition of toxic agents to spices is common. However, the addition of lead chromate to turmeric threatens public health in Bangladesh. The researchers behind the present study wanted to assess the effect of this practice and its regulation.