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Study reveals that Punjab’s toxic water causing stillbirths & infant health hazards

December 24, 2012 | By

Chandigarh/Punjab (December 24, 2012): According to an important news report by Times of India (TOI) the toxic groundwater in Punjab villages along with five major waste drains ——Buddha Nala, Hudiara, Kala Singha, East Bein and Tung Dhab —is having dangerous fallout.

“It is resulting in rise in stillbirths and spontaneous abortions as well as delayed language learning and mental growth in children under the age of 12. These startling facts have come out in a study recently published in an international journal, which examines the impact of the deadly cocktail of heavy metals present in groundwater on women and children” reads the news report by TOI.

This is the first bit of evidence from North India that shows a link between heavy metal and pesticide pollution of water and reproductive and child health morbidity. Leave aside the toxicity in cattle milk, even mother’s milk has been found to have high levels of metals.

The study published in Journal Epidemiol Community health covers 35 villages in Amritsar, Ludhiana and Jalandhar districts of Punjab, where toxicity has been ascertained. The study’s main investigator, Dr J S Thakur, from PGI’s school of public health had been the first to establish the toxicity in Punjab’s groundwater.

In a cross-sectional community-based survey, 1904 women in reproductive age group and 1762 children below 12 from 35 villages were interviewed for general health morbidity. Doctors also conducted their clinical examination. Out of 35 villages, 25 served as target (exposed) and 10 as non-target (less exposed).

Spontaneous abortion (20.6 per 1000 live births) and premature births (6.7 per 1000 live births) were significantly higher in the area affected by heavy metal and pesticide pollution. Stillbirths were about five times more as compared to a meta-analysis for South Asian countries. A large proportion of children in target area was reported to have delayed language learning, blue line in the gums, mottling of teeth and gastrointestinal problems. Mercury was found in more than permissible limits in 84.4% samples from the target area.

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