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Down to Earth (magazine)

Down to Earth
Editor Sunita Narain
Categories Environment, science, nature
Frequency Fortnightly
First issue May 1992[1]
Company Centre for Science and Environment
Country India
Based in New Delhi
Language English
Website [1]

Down to Earth is an Indian science and environment fortnightly, established by the Society for Environmental Communications in May 1992. The magazine informs people about environmental threats facing India and the world.

DTE has become a reading habit in 400 of about 500 districts of the country — more than any other Indian newspaper or magazine. DTE’s sphere of influence is not limited to India, readers across the world rely on the magazine for a view from South Asia on the critical issues of human existence. Its founder editor Anil Agarwal summed up its essence when he said: “Ideas are like time-bombs. You never know when someone will read it and make change. The idea will then explode.”


  • Initiatives and special issues 1
    • Endosulfan test, 2001 1.1
    • Pesticides in bottled water, 2003 1.2
    • Pesticides in soft drinks, 2003 and 2006 1.3
    • Pesticides in Punjab, 2005 1.4
    • Tests in 2009 1.5
    • Transfats in cooking oil, February 1.6
    • Lead in paints, August 1.7
    • Contamination in Bhopal, December 1.8
    • Tests in 2010 1.9
    • Phthalates, January 1.10
    • Antibiotics in honey, September 1.11
  • References 2
  • External links 3

Initiatives and special issues

Down to Earth has undertaken initiatives to bring awareness among people on common issues:

Endosulfan test, 2001

Tested endosulfan traces in environmental and human samples from Padre village in Kasaragod district of Kerala. An unusually large number of health anomalies reported from a single village. These ranged from cancer to physical deformities and mental to neurological disorders. Endosulfan was aerially sprayed in the cashew plantations in the area.

High traces of endosulfan was found in every sample [2]

After the test results were released the Union government ordered its own scientific institutions to study the health problems. The National Institute of Occupational Health in Ahmedabad confirmed endosulfan was the cause of poisoning. Union agriculture ministry banned use of endosulfan in Kerala in 2005.

Pesticides in bottled water, 2003

Analysed pesticide residues in bottled water that was being sold in Indian markets at a premium and without regulations.

Samples tested contained a cocktail of pesticide residues.[3] Most of the samples contained as many as five different pesticide residues,[4] in levels far exceeding the standards specified as safe for drinking water.

Health ministry proposed mandatory regulations. India's first ever bottled water standard promulgated. Every bottle of water sold in the market must meet the standards. The norms state that pesticide residues considered individually should not be more than 0.0001 mg/litre, while total pesticide residues were capped at not more than 0.0005 mg/litre.

Pesticides in soft drinks, 2003 and 2006

Analysed pesticide residues in soft drinks, another sector left unregulated.

High levels of toxic pesticides and insecticides,[5] high enough to damage the nervous system and reproductive system, and cause cancer, birth defects and disruption of the immune system.

The government formed a Joint Parliamentary Committee, only the fourth in independent India and the first on health and safety of Indians. The committee report vindicated the CSE findings and said it is prudent to seek complete freedom from pesticide residues in sweetened aerated water.[6] After prevaricating for five years, the Union Health Ministry was forced to set up in soft drinks,[7] world’s first ever.

Pesticides in Punjab, 2005

Analysed pesticide residues in blood samples of farmers in Punjab, where pesticides are commonly used in agriculture.

Deadly cocktails of six to 13 pesticides found in all the blood samples tested.

The Punjab government ordered a study and immediate health remediation measures. Later, the government formulated organic farming policy for the area. Recently, the government has asked Indian Council of Medical Research to look into the health concerns in the region and suggest solutions.

Tests in 2009

Transfats in cooking oil, February

Branded edible oils are full of unhealthy transfats.

The results showed transfats in seven leading vanaspati brands were five to 12 times the 2 per cent standard set by Denmark.

Since the release of this study several government agencies took steps to set standards for transfats in cooking oil. The Union health ministry is finalising draft standards for transfats to be notified under PFA. Bureau of Indian Standards is in advanced stages of finalising a standard. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has also got involved in the process of regulating transfats in edible oils.

Lead in paints, August

The CSE laboratory tested leading brands. Young children are particularly vulnerable to lead as it can damage the central nervous system and the brain. Several countries have banned the use of lead in paints but not India.

Lab results revealed Indian paints contain high amounts of lead [8] 72 per cent of samples tested did not meet the voluntary standard.

Immediately after the study results were published, the minister of consumer affairs instructed the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion to set mandatory standards for lead in paints in consultation with Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). Leading paint manufacturers like Kansai Nerolac wrote to CSE that they are taking steps to remove lead from their household paints. Industry associations also contacted CSE, saying that they favoured removal of lead from paints used in houses and in paints children are likely to come in contact with. BIS is in advanced stages of finalising a mandatory standard.

Contamination in Bhopal, December

For more than 25 years, the Union Carbide (UCIL) factory has been contaminating the land and water of Bhopal. Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) tested water and soil samples from in and around the factory.

High concentrations of pesticides and heavy metals found inside the factory as well as in the groundwater outside. Tests showed groundwater in areas even three km from the factory contained almost 40 times more pesticides than Indian standards permitted.

The Central Pollution Control Board, which had collected samples with CSE, also confirmed the contamination. This was the first-ever study that revealed continued contamination of surrounding areas from waste stored at the UCIL factory. This led to the re-opening of the Bhopal case and for the first time there was serious focus on the clean-up. The government of India has ordered cleaning up of the site and asked different institutions to prepare plans for remediation. Renewed the liability debate; senior Union ministers said Dow Chemicals should be held liable for the clean-up.

Tests in 2010

Phthalates, January

Tested presence of phthalates, a highly toxic chemical, in toys sold in the Indian market. These chemicals are not regulated or monitored by the government.

Lab results showed over 45 per cent of the samples exceeded the internationally accepted safe limit for phthalates. India has no standards.

In a meeting the joint secretary of Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion said that the Prime Minister's Office was taking a keen interest in setting standards for toys. The department of consumer affairs issued a draft notification to make it mandatory for all toy manufacturers to register with Bureau of Indian Standards. The BIS certificate will ensure that companies registered with BIS will get tested in the BIS recognised labs. BIS is also finalising the mandatory standards for phthalates in toys.

Antibiotics in honey, September

The CSE laboratory tested leading brands. Tests found high levels of antibiotics—from the banned chloramphenicol to broad spectrum ciprofloxacin and erythromycin—in almost all brands sold in the market. The leading Indian honey producers—Dabur, Baidyanath, Patanjali Ayurveda, Khadi, Himalaya—had two-four antibiotics in their products, much above the stipulated standards. Two foreign brands, an Australian and a Swiss, had antibiotics levels not permissible in their own countries.

The content of Down fo Earth is for anyone interested in the environment and the politics behind it. Reporters of Down To Earth travel the length and breadth of the country to uncover the truth.

  • Editor's Page: Indian environmentalist Sunita Narain’s take on government policies and their impact on the common man.
  • Cover Story: Combines reportage and research.
  • Frontpage: Reports that expose the politics behind environment, science and development
  • News: Reports on events of public concern and environmental policies.
  • Special Report: Articles and reports behind the news
  • Science and Technology: Advances in health & medicine; life, plant and atmospheric sciences; agriculture; geology; ecology; evolution; astrophysics and chemistry.
  • Features: On history, food, initiatives and culture
  • Crosscurrents: Guest writers' viewpoint
  • Review: Books and films
  • Media: A round-up on the public sphere
  • Columns:
  • Patently Absurd by Latha Jishnu
  • Right To Dissent by Latha Jishnu
  • Civil Lines by Richard Mahapatra


  1. ^ First Issue
  2. ^ Endosulfan Test results
  3. ^ Pesticide residues in bottled water
  4. ^ Types of Pesticide residues in bottled water
  5. ^ Pesticides in soft drinks
  6. ^ Levels of pesticide residues in soft drinks
  7. ^ Standards for pesticide residues
  8. ^ Indian paints contain high amounts of lead

External links

  • Official website
  • Company website
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