headerlogo
Stay Connected

Children of uranium poisoning?

 

Twelve-year-old Harpartik Kaur can barely walk or talk while other kids of her age play and grow taller by the day.

Harpartik has spent the better part of her life at a special clinic. Her doctors claim she has been crippled by uranium poisoning.

"Some people say it's because of uranium. It may be because of polluted ground water. We don't know but it has affected our lives," said Bhupinder Kaur, Harpartik's mother.

We meet hundreds of children like Harpartik at Baba Farid Centre for Special Children, a naturopathy center, battling birth defects, physical and mental abnormalities.

From north India, 120 children were randomly selected for an international study. It showed 113 of them had uranium in their bodies, up to 50 times the normal level.

Not a coincidence, people at Baba Farid Centre say that most of the affected children are from Punjab, and also the uranium levels are higher among children from Malwa, which has Punjab's two biggest coal-fired power stations.

Fly ash from burnt coal contains high levels of uranium and ash that has possibly contaminated Malwa's soil and ground water.

"Some scientists have also showed in their studies that fly ash from thermal plants is responsible for this uranium toxicity and another suspect is fertilizers," said Pritpal Singh, president, Baba Farid Centre.

Punjab is heavily dependent on thermal power projects to suffice the electricity needs. Every year millions of ton of coal is brunt to produce electricity. Now many believe that people are paying a heavy price.

Punjab government has run a series of tests to counter the accusations with the help of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.

"We have seen the reports of Trombay Centre. They have clearly stated that there is no side affect of uranium and they have studied in the hair parts and the levels are very much below the levels. So that can't cause any mental retardation or any abnormality," said Dr Viviek Jain, civil surgeon, Faridkote.

The government says Harpartik and her friends are victims of genetic disorders.

But each week, as more cases come up, doctors and heartbroken families beg for intervention in what could be a larger health crisis brewing in the region.

Carin Smit’s Challenge To Ms. Scott/Government

Dear Miss Scott

It is regrettable that government takes the stance that NGO’s and other interest groups pose a threat to governmental claims regarding the water issues facing South Africa. Rather than welcome involvement and collaborate with those who have a direct, sincere and committed interest in seeing the water crisis remedies, governmental claims appear to be hostile, denialist and oppositional.

May I briefly outline what is currently taking place in one of the world’s largest democracies, India:

In 2008 I visited north India on request to offer my services as a volunteer in a project where there are more than 400 severely disabled children. The majority suffered from cerebral palsy, were blind, deaf, deformed, mentally retarded, epileptic or had autism. When I saw the status of these children, and the abject poverty facing the families who brought their children for help to the Baba Farid Centre for Special Children, a clinic offering Indian Neuro-therapy to these hapless children, I managed to convince a laboratory in Europe to donate lab-time and started running toxicological tests on the children (see sub-joined article).

Over a two year period our testing uncovered that more than 88% of these children were toxic with uranium levels far above WHO and international safety standards.

When these results were released as front-page news in the Times of India and Hindustan News, two of the largest newspapers internationally, as well as to CNN, BBC News and other international media representatives, the Indian and Punjabi government reacted exactly as our own government is currently reacting to the news.

Punjab health minister Lakshmi Kanta Chawla stated in April last year: “This is not a health subject. We don’t know how children are showing such high concentrations of uranium,… it is for the central government in Delhi to deal with the problem.” The Central Government, in turn, then sent in high ranking officials from the Bhaba Atomic Research Council and the Department of Atomic Energy, who took a few water and hair samples from children in the project in Faridkot and made immediate claims in the media that the uranium levels in Faridkot were well within safety limits and that the children were deformed (see photos below) due to congenital reasons and that their disease could not be blamed on the high levels of uranium. They claimed that the testing done by the international lab was spurious and they even went ahead and threatened the project with closure if they continued speaking to the media, stating that it was beyond their remit to speak to media or drive research in this matter.

All these claims were made, despite the fact that reputable research was done more than 5 years ago by the University of Amritsar in Punjab, indicating that groundwater and pipe wells were heavily contaminated with uranium and that radon (a daughter of uranium) was elevated in houses in the Bathinda region elevating the risk of cancer in some communities thus affected more than 153 times as they reported on dose rate, cumulative dose and lifetime cancer risk – 15% of dwellings surveyed in Punjab had Radon levels which were in the “range of action” level . (Singh et al. Journal for Radiation Measurements, 39 (2005) 535 – 552.).

In July, 2010, our research was published in a reputable, peer-reviewed journal, Clinical Medicine Insights: Therapeutics, 2010:2 655-661 (12th July, 2010).

Due to pressure brought to bear on the Indian and Punjabi governments, after our research was published in this prestigious, international scientific journal in New Zealand, the comment by LivePunjab became a stark reminder that governments cannot ignore or dismiss the work done at grassroots level by NGO’s, concerned individuals and civil stakeholders: “Joint efforts should be taken by the laboratories and governmental agencies to do follow up studies that evaluate early metal exposure in children who are living in industrial or environmentally endangered regions of the state,” claim LivePunjab.

Only now, for the first time since this story broke in the media, does it appear that the Indian government is taking the matter of high uranium levels in groundwater seriously (http://www.tribuneindia.com/2010/20101003/punjab.htm#4), as other studies have also now been concluded showing that it isn’t just uranium that is elevated in groundwater in this region, but a whole cocktail of other lethal metals and chemicals have also tested out as beyond safety levels.

Today, 18 months later, the Indian government seems to shame-facedly to acknowledge danger, and reports are that they have started to remedy water supplies as a matter of urgency by planning to install water purification systems in every household in Punjab and have in collaboration with the Punjabi government started to take urgent steps to remedy the situation by passing tighter legislation against the dumping of “black water” into canals and other water sources. Senior Environmental Engineer for the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) has recently stated after a surprise checking campaign targeted 6 large industrial units in Patiela, Punjab: “The industries should understand that it is very important to make the rivers, drains and other water bodies of Punjab pollution free in order to build a green, healthy and nature-friendly Punjab for future generations. Hence, all the industrial units of Punjab must comply with the guidelines laid by the PPCB with respect to various types of pollution”, he added.

The sad part of this success story is that in a state with 24 million people, government knew about the water crisis for almost 6 years and millions of women fell pregnant and new babies were born over that period who were exposed to the mutagenic and carcinogenic effects of uranium as well as other lethal metals and xenobiotics materials and nothing was done, until an outside, independent agency (ourselves) went in and at great personal cost and sacrifice, challenged the Indian government.

SP Sharma – Tribune News Service

• Bathinda, January 23 – The Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) has ordered the Pollution Control Board to test groundwater below ash ponds of the thermal power house of the PSEB here to see whether it contained uranium or not. In its order, dated January 14, the PSHRC has told the PSEB to take steps to reduce the uranium content within prescribed limits, in case it was found beyond the permissible limit. Taking cognizance of reports published in The Tribune regarding air pollution being caused in Bathinda due to fly ash emanating from the coal-based thermal plant and also high quantity of uranium in the groundwater, the PSHRC had earlier issued notices to the Punjab government, PSEB and Pollution Control Board. PSHRC chairperson Justice RS Mongia and other members have ordered that tests may be done at some other thermal plant to verify whether the ash pond here was causing presence of uranium in the ground water. The PSHRC suggested another test of groundwater from some place away from the ash pond to compare the uranium content. Chief engineer of the thermal plant Kamaljit Singh informed the commission that modernisation of Unit number III has been started and the work would be completed in nine months. http://www.tribuneindia.com/2010/20100124/punjab.htm#20

Despite the huge shift in thinking in India about the contamination of its water sources, acid drainage from its many thermal power plants, is still not recognised as the contaminating source – coal, when burnt for energy production, becomes a fly-ash. This fly-ash is pumped into large, unlined fly-ash dams all over India. The fly-ash seeps into the ground and down into the aquifer. On its way down, it has to flow into rock formations rich in uranium. Acid drainage, similar to what we have on the (gold) Reef of South Africa, releases exceptionally high quantities of toxic metals, naturally found in rock formations, such as arsenic, lead, nickel and uranium into the pristine underground aquifers and thus poisons an entire nation. Elevated levels of nitrates associated with agricultural use, can also be to blame for the acid levels in the water.

Interestingly enough, wealthy captains of industry in Punjab are making the same claims that Ms. Scott is making with regards to NGO’s, concerned individuals and civil stakeholders: “Umrao Singh, president of the Sugar Division of Chadha Estate, denied the allegations (that his liquor industry is causing severe water pollution in the region).He claimed that certain local leaders had been creating a hue and cry unnecessarily for their vested interests.He claimed that the Punjab Pollution Control Board had collected water samples from the area, which were found fit for use. The hazardous waste and air pollution are being managed as per the directions of the board”, he claimed’.

Oceans and thousands of kilometers divide us, yet, when culpability or acknowledgement of wrong has to be apportioned or accepted, similar games are played and the helpless and hapless, the poor and the marginalized suffer!

Similar claims as the one above (see subject-line) that SA’s water crisis is dire, are currently being made in India (Punjab, which means Five Rivers, has been faced with the total destruction of its pristine water sources “The Energy Research Institute, a New Delhi think tank, says that already in an agriculture-based state such as Panjaab in the north, 98 percent of ground water has been exploited. The Forum for Bio-Technology and Food Security adds that if the trend continues, the once fertile Panjaab- once known as the country’s granary – will turn into a desert,” reports Witness84.com (http://www.witness84.com/water)At least India’s central and regional governments seem to be listening – will South Africa’s government fail this test?

Tests on children with cerebral palsy or mental disabilities in the Indian state of Punjab have revealed high levels of uranium.
A charity based in Faridkot city said chemical analyses of hair specimens collected from 149 children in its care showed unexpected amounts of toxins.
The children included in the study were all under 13, it said.
The result has baffled the authorities as there are no known sources of uranium in Punjab.


'Startling'
The chemical tests were conducted on the suggestion of Dr Carin Smit, a South African metal toxicologist associated with the UK-based non-governmental organisation Defeat Autism Now.
Samples of hair collected from the 149 children, then resident at the Faridkot-based charity, Baba Farid Centre for Special Children, were tested at Trace Mineral, a laboratory in Germany.
The results were startling, Prithpal Singh, head of Baba Farid, said.
Around 80% of the samples, including those from children with cerebral palsy, revealed the presence of uranium in levels that the experts have described as pathological, Mr Singh said.
We are informed that there is a fairly well established correlation between exposure to uranium and birth defects, renal damage and several forms of cancer.
This could well be among the causes of the conditions afflicting our children.
The unexpected results have drawn Dr Smit and her colleague Vera Dirr back to Faridkot, where they have now collected urine samples from the children to get more specific evidence of uranium exposure.
No-one seems to have any idea as to the source of the uranium.
Some experts say the problem may be more widespread.
No-one apart from the children at the Faridkot centre has been examined for the presence of toxic metals.
Mr Singh said experts had clarified that the results did not imply any exposure to radioactivity.
Health officials in Punjab said they were unaware of the problem.
This is not a health subject. We don't know how children are showing such high concentrations of uranium, Punjab health minister Lakshmi Kanta Chawla said.
It is for the central government in Delhi to deal with the problem.

Water Contamination
Kids in Punjab villages losing sight to polluted drinking water

Shankar Singh, 22, lost his eyesight
a decade ago. His younger brother,
Visakha Singh, who had no vision problem when he was born, too, lost
his sight as he grew up. [Read More...]

Pollution in Budda Nullah - 7 of family
fall prey to hepatitis

Gurminderjit Kaur of Gaunspur village
on the bank of Budda Nullah is only
28 years old and has lost all adult members of her family to hepatitis due
to the consumption of contaminated water [Read More...]

Parts of Malwa and Rajasthan drinking poison?

In the wake of discovery of high level
of uranium and other heavy metals in hair samples of 80% of 149
neurologically -disabled children, samples of five children from
worst-affected village of Teja Rohela, [Read More...]

Punjab Cancer
Cancer belt of Punjab

The number of cancer patients has
grown manifold in the recent years in the Malwa area. Local people feel excessive use of pesticides has contaminated the ground water.[Read More...]

Cancer picture dismal, not complete

The Day & Night channel’s well- documented report Cancer da Keher managed to capture the big picture. Swaran Singh Danewalia met the affected families in the Malwa region [Read More...]

HC notice to state on cancer in Malwa

Refusing to close its eyes to the ailing cancer cure facilities in Punjab’s Malwa belt, the Punjab and Haryana High
Court has taken suo motu cognizance [Read More...]

Cancer Train
‘Cancer train’ remains as popular as ever

Yet another year has passed but the
number of patients boarding from here
the infamous “cancer train” to Bikaner in
Rajasthan for the treatment of the
disease has increased,[Read More...]

Cancer Express

Passenger Express 339 enters Bathinda railway station around 9 pm, as if blindfolded by the dark winter night. The sight of it brings a glint to the lifeless
eyes of Balwinder Singh (42) waiting [Read More...]

Green revolution’s cancer train

Pesticides and cancer: a murderous
concoction, a massive environmental
and health disaster, while people are
dying in village after village of Punjab
[Read More...]

Uranium poisoning in Punjab
India's generation of children crippled by uranium waste

Their heads are too large or too small,
their limbs too short or too bent. For
some, their brains never grew, speech
never came and their lives are likely to
be cut short [Read More...]

Dr. Carin Smit's open letter to Journal of Medical Physics India

In 2008 I visited north India on request
to offer my services as a volunteer in a
project where there are more than 400
severely disabled children. The majority
suffered from [Read More...]

Punjab disability & Uranium Link – BBC

Tests on children with cerebral palsy or
mental disabilities in the Indian state of
Punjab have revealed high levels of
uranium. [Read More...]

Environmental Toxicity
Punjab: Sindh valley civilization again ready to die

The whole community is put on slow
death. The only difference between the
both situations is this that in those
times it was a natural disaster but this
time it is of man made [Read More...]

Punjab: An Environmental toxicity hotspot heading towards death

Punjab’s Ecosystem is full of Poisons.
It is increasingly becoming obvious that
Punjab is turning into a hotspot of
Environmental Toxicity. [Read More...]

Water Crisis and Water Chaos in Punjab

Women are bound to fetch water on
their head from as far as 3 kms, and a vast majority of people have no option other than to drink sub-human water [Read More...]

Reverse Osmosis (RO) filtration plants
RO plants bring hope in cancer belt

Despite slow pace of installation,
residents feel it will help them combat
the scourge Installation of Reverse
Osmosis (ROs) filtration plants is
progressing at a slow pace to provide
potable water [Read More...]

RO water too costly for Punjab’s poor
in Malwa

In the Malwa belt of Punjab that is
riddled with water problems, the Punjab
government’s project to install water
purifiers working on RO theory does not
seem to have yielded desired results,
at least for the poor.[Read More...]

Uranium in Water, 200 reverse osmosis plants of little use

Detection of high level of uranium in
water in the Malwa belt of Punjab have
virtually halted the installation of reverse
osmosis (RO) plants[Read More...]