Thursday, September 2

Punjab exposes its children to toxicity

A study published in a scientific journal has confirmed that children in Punjab are exposed to toxic metals, writes Jatinder Preet in The Sunday Guardian

Five year old Kashish Setia and his elder brother Mohit Setia, 12, from village Khuban in Ferozepur district, both suffer from neurological disorders. Chemical tests revealed both had high levels of uranium exposure.
Sumitra Narang, a 13 year girl from border town of Punjab, Abohar is all of three feet and is mentally challenged too. A chemical analysis of her hair sample found abnormally high exposure to lead.
These children are just three of 149 from various parts of Punjab and adjoining Rajasthan, test results of whom formed the basis of a study now published in Librtas Academica, a New Zealand based journal.
A study conducted by Post Graduate Institute of Medical Research, Chandigarh in the year 2003-04 too had showed levels of heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, selenium and mercury were generally higher in drinking water.
But now evidence has come in of presence of not only these heavy metals but radioactive uranium and strontium also.
The study shows 113 of children who were tested, were found to have high levels of uranium in their hair samples besides varying degrees of toxic metal exposure like that of aluminium, cadmium, lead, barium, magnesium, silver, strontium and tin etc.
The tests were done at Trace Mineral, a laboratory in Germany, on hair samples sent by Baba Farid Centre for Special Children, a Faridkot based charity.
Dr Pritpal Singh, who runs the centre, said they had first sent the samples of hair of under-treatment children for heavy metal toxicity tests in 2008. Chemistry of the hair is known to be a direct reflection of the chemistry of the environment in which the individual is living, he explained. While preliminary results confirmed their fears, to be doubly sure they sent additional water samples from the residences of these children along with the sample of their normal kin.
Dr Carin Smit, a South African neurotherapist, associated with the centre, helped get the expensive tests done by raising donations on her own and formed the mainstay of the study.
Besides Dr Smit the authors of the study included E. Blaurock-Busch, Research Director, Micro Trace Minerals Laboratory; Albrecht Friedle, CEO, Labor Friedle, Regensburg, Germany; Michael Godfrey, Director, International Board of Clinical Metal Toxicology, New Zealand and Claus E.E. Schulte-Uebbing, Professor at Age Breaking Center in Munich, Germany .
The authors have expressed the view that India has become a dumping ground for the toxic materials and that Punjab has become particularly vulnerable to environmental toxicity because of excessive use of agriculture based chemicals. About the presence of excessive amounts of uranium in the ecosystem of Punjab, the authors suspect coal based power plants could be a possible source.