36 years on, Bhopal gas tragedy survivors battle obesity, thyroid disorders

Higher obesity due to gas exposure is likely to have made Bhopal gas tragedy survivors vulnerable to various diseases like diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease, osteoarthritis and cancers, said a trust that runs a clinic for treatment of the survivors
Residents of Bhopal pay tributes to those killed in the gas tragedy of 1984.(HT PHOTO)
Residents of Bhopal pay tributes to those killed in the gas tragedy of 1984.(HT PHOTO)
Published on Dec 02, 2020 04:09 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Bhopal | By HT Correspondent

A clinic run by a trust for treatment of Bhopal gas tragedy survivors has claimed that they are suffering from obesity and thyroid disorders that are also responsible for a host of other ailments.

Sambhavna Trust Clinic made the claim on Tuesday ahead of the 36th anniversary of the tragedy, which falls on December 3.

“Our analysis of data on body mass index and diagnosis of thyroid malfunction of 27,155 persons under care for the last 15 years at the clinic, shows that persons exposed to Union Carbide’s poisonous gases were 2.75 times more likely of being overweight or obese and that they were 1.92 times more likely to suffer from thyroid disease compared to those who had not been exposed to gas.” said Dr Sanjay Shrivastav, physician at the clinic.

Satinath Sarangi, managing trustee of Sambhavna Trust, said, “Higher obesity due to gas exposure is likely to have made survivors vulnerable to various diseases like diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease, osteoarthritis and cancers of the liver, kidney, breast and ovary etc. Survivors having thyroid diseases at almost double the usual rate, indicate that in addition to several other systems in human bodies, the endocrine system has also been damaged due to exposure to Union Carbide’s gases.”

Chingari Trust, another organisation organised a candle light march in Bhopal on Tuesday to pay homage to those killed in the tragedy.

Meanwhile, four organisations working for justice to survivors of the tragedy have demanded that Union Carbide and its owner Dow Chemical pay additional compensation for the long term injuries caused to the survivors who were exposed to the gas as evidenced during the current Covid-19 pandemic.

“Official records suggest that Covid-19 death rate in the gas exposed population is 6.5 times more than that of the non-gas exposed population of the Bhopal district,” four organisations including Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, Bhopal Group for Information & Action and Children Against Dow Carbide said in a joint statement.

“The pandemic has exposed the official lie that 93% of those exposed to Union Carbide’s poisonous gases had only temporary injuries. We have official records that show that the gas exposed population, that is 17% of the district’s population of 2.8 million, has contributed to 56% of the Covid-19 deaths in the district so far. It is time the Indian government present these data and other hospital records before the Supreme Court that is yet to hear the Curative Petition for additional compensation for damage caused by the December 1984 disaster,” said the statement.

As per a state government affidavit filed in the Supreme Court in 2006 the tragedy had killed 3,787 people and affected more than 5.58 lakh other people in the state capital after toxic gas leaked from erstwhile Union Carbide factory which was closed after the tragedy, on the night of December 2, 1984. However, the organisations fighting for the cause of victims claim the tragedy had killed more than 15,000 people.

A report released in April, 2019 by International Labour Organisation (ILO) dubbed the 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy as one among the world’s “major industrial accidents” of the 20th century. The report stated at least 30 tons of methyl isocyanate gas released from the Union Carbide pesticide plant had affected more than 600,000 people including workers and nearby inhabitants.

Despite efforts minister for Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Vishwas Sarang and additional chief secretary of the department Mohd Suleman could not be contacted for their comments.

The ruling BJP said that its government has undertaken a number of measures to provide relief to the survivors.

“The BJP government has not only been sympathetic to the Bhopal gas tragedy victims but also it has undertaken a number of measures to provide them relief like strengthening health facilities in the state capital for them inter alia. The government is always open to accepting the suggestions and demands from the organsiations working for the survivors,” BJP leader Dr Hitesh Bajpai said.

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Friday, October 22, 2021