Punjab Research Group

Links between uranium and birth defects

Posted in Articles by Pippa on September 5, 2009

Published in The Asian Age, June 11, 2009

URANIUM IN CHILDREN’S HAIR Scientists trace source to pre-historic Granites

By ASIT JOLLY

June 10: Geophysicists have traced the source of the high concentrations of radioactive uranium amongst mentally disabled Punjabi children to the massive outcrop of granite rocks exposed on the Haryana-Rajasthan Border.

Earlier this April, tests conducted on hair samples of 149 special children (all under 13 years) at a charitable home in Punjab’s Faridkot city had revealed “toxic concentrations of uranium.” Trace Minerals – the German lab that carried out the assays – reported nearly 90 per cent of the young patients at the Baba Farid Center for Special Children had “pathological levels of uranium in their bodies.”

The shocking revelations prompted investigations by the Department of Atomic Energy and scientific experts from Amritsar’s Guru Nanak Dev University who have been studying unexpected uranium presence in Punjab and contiguous areas since the early 1990’s

“We are now certain the uranium has been leaching out from the extensive granite rocks exposed in the Tosham Hills (Bhiwani District),” the GNDU geophysicist and seismologist, Prof. Surinder Singh told this newspaper.

The professor and his team of scientists have methodically sampled the soil, water and plant life across southwestern Punjab and Haryana to actually demonstrate how the radioactive metal has traveled to deposit on the plains of Punjab. Literally thousands of samples were collected and assayed over the past decade, he said.

More recently, prompted by reports of Faridkot’s ‘uranium kids,’ Dr. Singh also tested milk, wheat, mustard and commonly eaten pulses to explore how uranium in Punjab’s soil was making its way to play havoc with human health.

The results, he says, are even “more startling.” The milk contains up to 3.33 micrograms per liter; pulses 47 micrograms and wheat up to 115 micrograms of uranium. “The total average daily intake of uranium, including from water, is nearly 140 micrograms per person which is completely unacceptable given that the global dietary intake standard is around just five micrograms,” said Dr. Singh.

Health experts believe there could be far greater human health risks from chemical toxicity rather than possible radiation hazard. Apart from the nerve defects already witnessed amongst the children in the Faridkot center, uranium is a widely known carcinogen also capable of causing a range of birth defects.

They say, the abnormally high incidence of cancers in two Bathinda Villages – Jajjal and Giana – earlier believed to be linked to prolonged, heavy pesticide usage, could actually be a consequence of the uranium hazard.

Dr. Singh said, “I have conveyed my findings to the Punjab Government and believe these are being taken up alongside other evidence by the state health authorities.”

The professor has also suggested detailed human health surveys around the source of the uranium at Tosham “where the exposure could be much higher given that most of the homes are built using granite quarried locally.”

Also see the following articles on the same topic:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7979022.stm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/aug/30/india-punjab-children-uranium-pollution

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/4952783.cms?frm=mailtofriend

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2009/20090424/science.htm#1 

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