Painted idols and oil spill could spell danger

Published: Sep 16, 2010, 07:27 IST | Rinkita Gurav |

Professors at IIT-B say paint from Ganesh idols could form a deadly cocktail with oil from last month's spill; warn of adverse effects to marine ecology

Professors at IIT-B say paint from Ganesh idols could form a deadly cocktail with oil from last month's spill; warn of adverse effects to marine ecology

Professors at IIT-B have warned that immersion of Ganesh idols in the Arabian Sea could prove especially toxic this year if the paint and chemicals used in making the idols mix with the oil from last month's oil spill.

NOT SAFE: IIT professors warn that immersion of Ganesh idols in the sea could prove toxic as the chemical-laden oil paint takes a long time to dissolve in water. PIC/RANE ASHISH

Pointing out the danger to marine ecology, Prof Nand Kishore, head of the Chemistry Department at IIT-B, said, "If the oil paint from the idols comes in contact with the oil in the sea, it can create a very toxic mixture."

Echoing his view, Prof Raja Mohanty, associate professor, Industrial Design Centre, IIT, said, "The paint on the idols takes a long time to dissolve in water. While this is a phenomenon that is seen every year, the danger has been compounded by last month's oil spill. The chemical-laden oil paint will dissolve with oil from the spill and affect marine life over a larger area."

Andheri-based sculptor Pradeep Paithankar said that oil paint is used extensively for idols which are taller than five feet. While the oil paint takes a long time to dissolve, acrylic paint, used for smaller idols, dissolves relatively quicker. Eco-friendly Ganesh idols, for which organic paints are used, do the least harm to the environment.

When MiD DAY spoke to environmentalist Deepak Apte from the Bombay Natural History Society, he said, "The oil spill created a problem anyway and the immersion process will just compound this. Pollution levels are always extremely high after immersions."

"There are many agencies which are helping in the clean up after the spill but, after knowing this, the process needs to be speeded up," he added.

Officialspeak
State Environment Secretary Valsa Nair Singh said, "I am a lay person and do not know too much about the professors' theory, but if this is true, we will look into the matter and also ask for professional help from the professors and some scientists. The spill clean-up is progressing swiftly."

Hazard

The oil paint contains carcinogenic heavy metals such as lead, mercury and chromium which have an adverse effect on marine life. The Plaster of Paris used in the idols also takes a long time to dissolve, said an environmentalist.

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