Anecdotal reports of high incidence of cancer had been coming from certain areas of Punjab since last few years. It is common knowledge that pesticide use in Punjab is amongst the highest in India.
Evidence of Damage
We also came to know another study that explored the high incidence of cancer in certain areas of Punjab and its linkage with pesticide. The Punjab Pollution Control Board had commissioned this study. We had sent one of our colleagues to visit the area and to ascertain the cancer incidence situation. She came back with data and names of a few places. In October 2004, the Pollution Monitoring Laboratory (PML) of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) decided to undertake a study in these areas of Punjab. A team of PML scientists visited Punjab, October 4-7, 2004. We visited four villages: Mahi Nangal, Jajjal and Balloh in Bhatinda district and Dher in Ropar district — agricultural fields surrounded these villages and
pesticide use was quite evident. We randomly selected 20 people from all the four villages. Venous blood (10ml) of these people was collected. Blood samples were collected in residue-free heparinised 20 ml glass vials containing 200 USP units of heparin in 0.2 ml solution with the help of sterilised syringe. The samples were transported in dry ice to the laboratory and stored at –20°C until analysed. The samples were analysed for 14 organochlorine and 14 organophosphorous pesticides using a Gas Chromatograph based on US Environmental Protection Agency methodology.
The picture is truly gruesome
Mean total DDT in blood samples of Punjab was 0.0652
Mean levels of aldrin in blood samples were 0.0062 mg/l
and ranged from not-detectable (ND) – 0. 0159 mg/l Mean levels of alpha and beta endosulfan in blood were 0.0044 and 0.0002 mg/l respectively. Mean total endosulphan in the samples was 0.0046 mg/l. HCH was detected in all blood samples. Mean level of HCH in blood was 0.057 mg/l.
Organophosphates Mean levels of monocrotophos in blood samples were 0.0948 mg/l in the range of ND – 0.4915 mg/l. Monocrotophos, a non-specific, systemic insecticide and acaricide is shown to cause delayed neuropathy. Mean level of chlorpyrifos in blood was 0.0662 mg/l and ranged from ND – 0.4965 mg/l Mean levels of phosphamidon in blood was 0.0366 mg/l and ranged from ND – 0.1282 mg/l Malathion was detected in whole blood samples from Punjab at mean levels of 0.0301 mg/l and ranged from ND – 0.0753 mg/l
Major contribution to total pesticide concentration in blood samples from Punjab is of organophosphorus pesticides Data also indicates that each person is exposed to and carries a body burden of multiple pesticides. The presence of higher levels of total pesticide residues in the blood of occupationally exposed population of Punjab might be due to direct exposure during application of pesticide and due to exposure through air, water, and food. Based on Centre for Science and Environment’s Pollution Monitoring Laboratory’s March 2005 report, Analysis of Pesticide Residues in Blood Samples from Villages of Punjab. Investigators: H B Mathur, H C Agarwal, Sapna Johnson, Nirmali Saikia.
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