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Uranium may not be cause: Expert


Jalandhar, July 31

As the Punjab government has failed to set up any medical commission to find out why cancer has become a major killer and what is leading to its spread, especially in the Malwa region, experts continue to differ on the cancer-causing agents there.

Joining the debate with other scientists, who fear the presence of uranium in the soil as well as in the water in the Bathinda belt of the Malwa region, Dr HS Virk, Director, Research, DAV Institute of Engineering and Technology, here today said experts should not create a scare among people without reaching a definite conclusion on cancer-causing agents.

Dr Virk, with PhD in nuclear physics from Marie Curie University, Paris, said, “A research group headed by me collected data from soil samples all over Punjab in 1997-99 under a national project sponsored by the Board of Research in Nuclear Science (BRNS), an agency set up by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). The result of the survey were published in Current Science, Bangalore, on June 25, 2000,” said Dr Virk.

“The average radon concentration was measured over a period of one year in 300 houses spread over the state. We found the highest concentration of radon in indoor air in Bathinda district, 20 per cent higher than the average concentration of radon in Punjab. But this concentration was much lower than the recommended value by the International Commission of Radiation Protection (ICRP) for taking remedial action in residential areas”. The reason for higher radon concentration in Bathinda district was attributed to sandy soil with high porosity and not to some uranium content anomaly of the soil, he added.

During 2001, Dr Virk said a team led by him conducted the survey to check the radon and uranium content in water of the Bathinda area. And that the report prepared in this regard was published in international journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry, London. The latest equipment was used to check the radon and uranium content.

“Our report contradicts the report published by Dr Surinder Singh. Our result showed the normal distribution of radon concentration in sub soil water of Bathinda district”, said Dr Virk.

Again a comprehensive survey was conducted during 2002 to check the anomalies in the soil and water from where high uranium concentration was reported by Dr Singh. The highest value of uranium content in water was observed in Thermal Colony at Bathinda (16.61+0.13 microgram/per litre). The result of the final survey was published in international journal during 2005 for radon concentration in water samples collected in Bathinda district.

“All values of radon in water were reported in the range of 2-8 Bq/ per litre, much lower than the same limit 400 Bq/litre determined at global level,” said Dr Virk.

He said one of the experts, who was claiming that high concentration of uranium and radon was causing cancer in Bathinda region, was contradicting his own report which he co-authored and was published in 2005.

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