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Rhodamine-B : A Harmful Chemical


Prelims: Science & Tech. (Chemicals in News), Rhodamine B, Stockholm Convention,Dyeing

Mains: General Studies-III, Science and Technology- Developments and their Applications and Effects in Everyday Life.

Why in the News ?

Recently, the Tamil Nadu government banned the sale and production of cotton candy in the state after it was found that the chemical Rhodamine-B was being used for making it.

Source: TH

Key Facts 🗝️

As per the Food Safety Standards Act, 2006, preparation, packaging, importing, selling and serving food items with Rhodamine-B in wedding ceremonies and other public events is a punishable offence.

📌 FYI on Prelims:

  • Dyeing:
    • It is the interaction between a dye and a fibre, as well as the movement of dye into the internal part of the fibre. 
    • Generally, a dyeing process involves adsorption (transfer of dyes from the aqueous solution onto the fibre surface) and diffusion (dyes diffused into the fibre). 
  • Stockholm Convention:
    • It is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from persistent organic pollutants (POPs). POPs are chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of living organisms and are toxic to humans and wildlife.
    • India ratified the Stockholm Convention in 2006 


  • Rhodamine-B
    • It is a water-soluble chemical compound.
    • While it appears green in powder form, it turns vivid fluorescent pink when it comes in contact with water.
    • It is a chemical commonly used for dyeing in the textile, paper, leather, and paints industry as a coloring agent that helps in attaining the red and pink spectrum.
    • It is an industrial dye which is not allowed in food anywhere in the world as it is toxic.
  • Harmful Nature:
    • Researchers have identified that if food containing this chemical is consumed regularly, it can cause damage to the cerebellum tissue in the brain and to the brainstem that connects the brain to the spinal cord.
    • These damages can lead to functional abnormalities and can hinder humans’ motor functioning. 
    • The chemical is toxic for humans and can cause oxidative stress on cells and tissues if ingested.
    • It becomes particularly hazardous when it is mixed with food products, leading to cancer and tumour over time.


Prelims: PYQ/FAQ

Q. Which of the following can be found as pollutants in the drinking water in some parts of India? (2013)

  1. Arsenic
  2. Sorbitol
  3. Fluoride
  4. Formaldehyde
  5. Uranium

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

A) 1 and 3 only
B) 2, 4 and 5 only
C) 1, 3 and 5 only
D) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

Ans: C). 1, 3 and 5 only

Explaination :

  • Drinking water in some parts of India have contaminants like Arsenic and Fluoride.
  • The sources of arsenic include run off from orchards, metal smelting among others.
  • The sources of Fluoride are erosion of natural deposits, discharge from fertilizers and Aluminium factories. 
  • The drinking water in some parts of India also contains traces of Uranium. The main source of the Uranium contamination is natural, but human factors such as groundwater-table decline and Nitrate pollution may exacerbate this problem. 
  • Some naturally occurring elements in drinking water are Lead, Arsenic, Mercury, Radium, Chloride, Iron and Copper compounds. Most of these are not harmful when consumed in small quantities. But when the consumption is higher than the prescribed amount, it could be harmful and sometimes even fatal.
  • Water in India is contaminated with salinity, Arsenic, Fluoride, Iron, Nitrate, and heavy metals.
  • Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol found in fruits and plants with diuretic, laxative and cathartic property.
    • Unabsorbed Sorbitol retains water in the large intestine through osmotic pressure, thereby stimulating peristalsis of the intestine and exerting its diuretic, laxative and cathartic effect.
    • Formaldehyde is a colourless, strong-smelling gas used in making building materials and many household products. Formaldehyde quickly broken down in the air – generally within hours. It dissolves easily in water, but does not last long there, either. 

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