For seventeen years, community member Tamanna Ali had been using surma (or kohl), a fine powder used as eye liner in many South Asian cultures. Though surma holds cultural significance, the cosmetic product is found to contain high levels of lead. Additionally, the spices that she used back in Bangladesh have been reported to contain lead.
She first heard about lead poisoning at Sapna NYC when she was asked to participate in an Action Group for the lead awareness project. There, Tamanna learned about the peeling lead-based paint, the lead-contaminated dust, as well as the specific South Asian products that might contain lead.
Tamanna decided to get her own blood tested for lead. However, this proved to be a bit difficult as her doctor initially refused the request, saying it is not necessary for adults and that she looked well and healthy. But Tamanna insisted and finally the doctor agreed and did the test. Her results came back with elevated levels of lead, which encouraged her to discontinue the use of surma. She also committed herself to spreading awareness about lead poisoning, so others could get themselves and their kids tested as well.