THE CROAK is a weekly environmental newsletter put out by the eCoexist team. It is the voice of the environment on its last legs, the final croak that can either be a plea for attention or a call of triumph as the frogs jump out of the well of ignorance and denial.
As stunning as this image looks, you would not cover your body in chemical paints and your would surely not add them to your food nor water! This issue of our newsletter is looking at the use of chemical paints in religious idols that get immersed into natural water bodies and the impact these cause on marine life. 

Most chemical paints contain high levels of toxic ingredients. Lead, Mercury, Cadmium and Arsenic are some of these ... of which LEAD is the most toxic. 

As per a report by the Delhi based NGO Toxics Link, 

'Lead is readily inhaled or ingested in the body and can be found in blood, soft tissues and bones where it can remain for long periods. Lead disturbs calcium metabolism, and hinders the de- velopment of chemical communication between neu- rons in the brain and cellular activity.9 It tends to affect all systems within the body. At high levels (above 80 μg/dl of blood), it tends to cause convulsions, reproductive health problems (in men and women), digestive and high blood pressure prob- lems, nerve disorders, coma and even death. Lower levels of lead can have adverse effect on the central nervous system, kidney and blood cells. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Integrated Risk Information System Pro- file on lead and lead compounds, blood lead levels as low as 10 μg/dl can impair mental and physical development.'

Just a drop of mercury...
While most believers would love for their Ganesh idol to be the most stunning and beautiful, the use of chemical paints on Ganesh and Durga idols is leading to an ecological disaster. In the days after the Ganesh immersions, dead fish are seen flowing in lakes and rivers, as even a single drop of mercury is toxic enough to poison an entire lake and the species living within it. The large number of idols that are immersed into natural water bodies on one single day, increase the magnitude of this toxicity and are a sure way of killing life in the water.
Photo: Sunjoy Monga
What goes into paints?
Chemicals paints, whether they are water soluble or not , contain chemicals that are harmful to life. A paint is created using four ingredients : A pigment, a filler, a binder and additives in a vehicle which may be an solvent or water.
Download a factsheet on the toxic ingredients of paints
What are the options?
1. Drop the paints altogether... Switch to a totally natural look and celebrate the beautiful earth tones of various types of soils..
Hand sculpted idols are incredible intricate and the beauty of the sculpture is enough to create a stunning look. You will not need any paints at all!
2. Try out various natural pigments...Turmeric, Spinach, Beetroot , Indigo can give you a range of natural colours to work with. Find out which of these adhere to your idol and insist that your sculptor use only natural paints. 
The Ganesh festival has evolved as a medium for raising social awareness and consciousness amongst Indians - it can now help raise environmental awareness too. Spread the message about toxic chemical paints and help your friends and family make the right choice when you choose your Ganesh idols. It is not just that the base material of your idols needs to be biodegradable - but you have to make sure that it is NOT painted with chemical paints. Water soluble paints may still be chemical and therefore don't automatically become eco friendly simply by being water soluble.

Talk to your sculptors and suppliers about this and become a part of improving this celebration!

We have created posters for social media that you can share with your networks - contact us if you'd like to use these posters.
The Croak is a weekly environmental newsletter put out by the eCoexist team. It is the voice of the environment on its last legs, the final croak that can either be a plea for attention or a call of triumph as the frogs jump out of the well of ignorance and denial. Satirical, urgent and wise the newsletter brings to your attention, topics of global environmental relevance as well as emerging encouraging alternatives. Put together by a team of passionate Nature lovers, The Croak hopes to look at the environmental crisis in its face. It is a tool to reconnect readers to Nature, through questioning and self reflection. To understand the outer environment as a reflection of our own inner state, individually and as a species. And to take responsibility for enabling change.
If you would like to contribute articles on ecology consciousness and sustainability please get in touch with us.
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