By Sujit Chakraborty
Agartala, Dec 4 (IANS): Tea produced in the northeast region and the Dooars and Darjeeling in West Bengal is safe to drink, a risk assessment study by a 3-member team of scientists from the Tea Research Association (TRA) has confirmed.
The TRA scientists -- Bappaditya Kanrar, Sangeeta Kundu, Pathik Khan -- conducted an in-depth study of the samples collected from eight different areas in Assam, Tripura and West Bengal and analysed them at the TRA's National Accreditation Board for Testing accredited laboratory in Kolkata.
The abstract of the study report, available with IANS, said: "Northeast Indian tea would not pose any health hazard."
"A total 321 drier mouth samples were collected during 2020-2021 from eight different regions (Darjeeling. Terai, Dooars, North Bank, Upper Assam, South Bank, Cachar and Tripura). No inorganic mercury as well as uranium was detected in any tested tea samples," the study said.
It said that tea is a perennial crop that requires acidic soil for better plant growth and due to the acidic nature of tea-growing soil, metals can be easily absorbed by tea plants from the growing medium.
Other anthropogenic activities are also the major contributor of elements in the tea. This study provided a comprehensive database of 24 elements which were analyzed by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), the study report stated.
The study was published in the Biological Trace Element Research journal.
The study revealed that human health risk for non-carcinogenic and carcinogenic metals was also assessed for the studied elements.
"Hazard quotients (HQs) and hazard index (HI) values (<1) for non-carcinogenic elements indicated no risk. the incremental lifetime cancer risk (ilcr) values for carcinogenic elements indicated no risk for as, cd, and pb and medium level risk for ni," the study report clarified.
Other scientists and experts highly appreciated the TRA scientists' study.
The TRA is an organisation which is funded by the tea industry and the Union Ministry of Commerce through the Tea Board of India.
Senior Scientist at the Tea Research Association (TRA) Dr Tanoy Bandyopadhyay said that most important tea gardens in the northeastern region maintain the harvesting interval after spraying the chemicals in their gardens.
"Most important tea gardens in the northeastern region also on regular basis test their samples either from the NABL accredited laboratories of TRA at Jorhat (Assam) or Kolkata and they properly follow the norms of spraying chemicals and harvesting interval," he told IANS.
Bandyopadhyay, in-charge of the Tripura advisory centre of TRA, said that the tea gardens in the northeastern region do not use the banned chemicals and avoid the restricted chemicals, which are harmful for human consumption.
Big tea marketing companies in India also collect or buy or prefer tea from those tea estates that follow the scientific norms and guidelines and these are also viable for the tea industry.
"Use of chemicals is essential for the tea gardens. But these should be used keeping in mind the health of humans. Scientific studies also helped the tea estate management to cultivate and produce good tea and flourish their business," said Bandyopadhyay.
Assam, which produces roughly 55 per cent of India's tea, has more than 10 lakh tea workers in the organised sector, working in about 850 big estates. Besides, there are lakhs of small tea gardens owned by individuals.
The tea belts of the Brahmaputra and Barak valleys are home to more than 60 lakh people.
After Assam, Tripura is the second largest producer of tea in the northeastern region, producing around 10 million kg of tea annually on an area of 6,885 hectares.
The agro-climatic conditions in Tripura are suitable for the development of tea plantations.
Official documents said that the soil is generally fertile, without any major problems of toxicities or deficiencies.
The average annual rainfall is about 210 cm. with a fairly even distribution over the year. Tripura has a history of tea plantations dating back to 1916.
In fact, Tripura is categorized as a traditional tea-growing state with about 54 tea estates, 21 tea processing factories, and more than 2500 small tea growers, producing about 10 million kg of tea every year making Tripura the 5th largest, among the 16 tea producing states in India.
Experts said that there is considerable scope to increase the productivity and area under tea plantation.