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Apr 20, 2012 at 11:52am IST

'Gutka contains carcinogen magnesium carbonate'

Mumbai: Gutka packets on average contain seven per cent magnesium carbonate, which is a chemical used in fire extinguishers, according to The Food And Drug Administration. The news is alarming as 206 million Indians use some form of smokeless tobacco.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 26 per cent of adults in India, use some form of smokeless tobacco and 40 per cent of them die because of this habit.

Dr Prakash Gupta, Director of Healis Institute for Public Health, said, "Magnesium carbonate itself has very specific health effects but when it is added to gutka and gutka is consumed, it has far more serious health effects because then it is a carcinogen. It has lots of toxins and produces many fatal and non-fatal diseases in an individual so taken as a whole when Magnesium Carbonate is added to gutka, it is a very very serious."

Added to increase the shelf life of the product, the worst is that no chronic side effects of the compound are known because there are not enough medical studies. The Maharashtra FDA is now planning to carry out surprise raids to seize gutka packets and ban companies that have been using magnesium carbonate as a preservative.

Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, Surgical Oncologist, Tata Memorial Hospital, said, "What I would urge is that rather than banning, seizing and forfeiting those products under the pretext of magnesium carbonate what would be logical to follow the food safety standards act of India and ban gutka altogether."

Now the BMC plans to revoke the licences of shops selling tobacco products in the vicinity of schools.

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