Uranium poisoning in punjab


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Uranium poisoning in punjab

  1. 1. Challenges in Public Awareness: Reports of Uranium Poisoning in Punjab Hardev Singh Virk Professor Emeritus, Eternal University, Baru Sahib (HP), India
  2. 2. Introduction • Public interest and concern about environmental radiation hazards has increased after the Chernobyl reactor accident on 26 April 1986, and more recently, after the Japanese Radiation Disaster at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant when it was hit by Tsunami on March 11, 2011. Reactor accidents and nuclear explosions have created a media-hype and a ‘nuclear neurosis’ among the general public to veto setting up of any nuclear facility in the neighbourhood or even in remote areas.
  3. 3. Public Awareness • Public awareness of environmental radiation hazards is an area which is most neglected in India. A typical case study is the uranium poisoning of ground water in Bathinda district of Punjab, where contradictory reports have been published in newspapers during last 3 years (2009-11). There has been lot of public protest in Tamil Nadu against setting up of Kudankulam Atomic Power Project.
  4. 4. Uranium Poisoning in Punjab • Uranium poisoning in Punjab first made news in March 2009, when a South African Clinical Metal Toxicologist, Carin Smit, visiting Faridkot city in Punjab found surprisingly high levels of uranium in 88% of the blood samples collected from amongst mentally retarded children in the Malwa region of Punjab. The results revealed that 87% of children below 12 years and 82% beyond that age having uranium levels high enough to cause diseases, and in the case of one child, the levels were more than 60 times the maximum safe limit.
  5. 5. Fear Psychosis • The reports of this study when published in local newspapers created a fear psychosis in the minds of public. Many scientists from Universities of Punjab jumped on the band wagon of Carin Smit to support her claim of high uranium content in blood samples by providing results of uranium analysis of soil and groundwater samples collected from some villages of Malwa region of Punjab.
  6. 6. Radon Studies by Author • The present Author has carried out an exhaustive environmental radon survey of 300 Punjab dwellings in all districts of Punjab, including Bathinda, under DAE (BRNS) project sponsored at National level by EAD. The results of this survey were published in national & international journals. We found that radon concentration in dwellings of Bathinda district is 20 % higher than average value of radon in Punjab.
  7. 7. Uranium Studies in Punjab Water • H.S. Virk reported 19.2 ppb of U conc. in tap water of Punjabi Univ. Patiala using f.t. technique (Current Sci. 48, 1979) • BS Bajwa & HS Virk reported U content of 16.6 ug/l in water of Thermal Colony, Bathinda using f.t. technique (Indoor & Built Environ. 12, 2003) • Rohit Mehra et al. reported average value of 17.3 ug/l for Malwa region using f.t. technique (Rad. Meas. 42, 2007) • H. Singh et al. reported highest value of U content of 63 ppb in groundwater of Malwa region(Ind. J. Phys. 83, 2009)
  8. 8. • BARC report (The Tribune, 23 July, 2009) filed by V.D. Puranik (EAD), confirmed higher uranium content in 3 samples of water than the safe limit of 60 ug/l fixed by AERB (highest value 244 ug/l). • Ajay Kumar et al. reported mean value of 99.96 ug/l of U in groundwater samples of S-W Punjab (J. Geol. & Mining Res. 3(5), 2011) • Dr. Jaspal Singh of GND University reported very high values of 1000 ppb uranium in ground water in the same area (The Tribune, 25 Feb. 2011) using Laser flourimetry. • Alrakabi et al. (P.U. Chandigarh) reported highest value of 212 ppb of U in water of Balluana, near Bathinda, using EDXRF technique (J.Radioanal. Nucl. Chem. Jan. 2012)
  9. 9. Conflicting Reports about cause of Cancer in Malwa region of Punjab • PAU reported that Arsenic in water may be major cause of Cancer in Malwa area. • The Greenpeace of Bangalore reported high levels of nitrate in ground water (602 mg/l) as cause of Cancer in Malwa region(safe limit 50 mg /l in drinking water). • GNDU Amritsar researchers attribute to high U content as cause of Cancer in Malwa region.
  10. 10. Source of U in Groundwater • GNDU group attributed high U content in water to Tosham granite rocks of Haryana. • PU Chandigarh group reports that high U content in water can be attributed to high salinity of water and Phosphatic fertilizers being used in Malwa region of Punjab. Calcium bicarbonate acts as a leaching agent for U in soil and it gets concentrated in groundwater by geochemical processes. • S. Singh & HS Virk reported U conc. of 612 ppm in Mussoorie phosphorite using f.t. technique (IJPAP, 21, 1983). Phosphate fertilizers seem to be plausible cause of U in groundwater in Punjab.
  11. 11. A Hundred Dollar Question • Is there any correlation between U content of Groundwater and Cancer Risk in Punjab? • There is NO concrete evidence for this? • Epidemiological investigations need to be carried out to establish a link between uranium in water and its role as a cancer causing agent. Several studies have been carried out in Finland & other countries but there is hardly any such study undertaken in India.
  12. 12. Thank You !!!