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NIOH study debunks contamination fear

A STUDY by the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), Ahmedabad has virtually debunked voluntary organisations? fear about contamination of water in and around Union Carbide plant.

india Updated: Apr 29, 2006 01:31 IST

A STUDY by the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), Ahmedabad has virtually debunked voluntary organisations’ fear about contamination of water in and around Union Carbide plant.

In a setback to the NGOs fighting for decontamination of the Carbide plant, the report says that serum levels of pesticide residue (DDT & HCH) and mercury in the blood of people living adjacent to the plant are comparable with the level of these compounds reported from other parts of the country. It further said that the results of study showed that contents of VOCs i.e. benzene, toluene, xylene and cholorobenzene in water samples were not detected and were found below the detection limit of the instrument i.e. 2 ppm.

The NGOs working among the gas victims had been carrying out a consistent campaign for decontamination of the Union Carbide plant. Their stand is that loads of toxic material dumped in the plant premises had contaminated groundwater in the areas adjacent to the plant, which the gas victims were forced to consume.

This assumption also formed the basis for their demand for compensation from Dow Chemicals for environmental damage at Bhopal and clean drinking water for residents living adjacent to Union Carbide plant.

MP High Court is also seized of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on the issue and has been monitoring progress of Union Carbide plant’s cleaning up operation undertaken by the M P Pollution Control Board at its behest.

Now, the State Government has filed the NIOH
report in the High Court in support of its contention that hazardous wastes lying in the Union Carbide were not contaminating water.

The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare had asked the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to conduct the preliminary study on ‘Environmental impact assessment near UCIL due to alleged improper disposal of toxic waste’. After the ICMR Director asked the Director, National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) to carry out study on its behalf, a team was sent to Bhopal during May 1 to 7, 2005.

The team collected biological sample (blood) and environmental samples (water and soil) from the ‘affected’ areas. Blood samples of 101 persons from ‘affected’ localities had been collected.

The NIOH team, in its report has concluded that serum levels of DDT and HCH and mercury level in blood of people affected by contamination was comparable with the levels of these compounds from any other part of the country.

It further said that the level of DDT and HCH in soil and water samples inside Union Carbide plant and at different other locations were comparable except for one sample just outside the boundary wall of UCIL, which showed high value of HCH in soil.

Similarly, the levels of mercury in water and soil sample outside the UCIL compound and other locations were also comparable with the levels of mercury reported from other parts of the country. However, one of the samples collected from the UCIL premises shows high value of mercury (2077 ug/kg).

The VOCs like benzene, toluene, xylene and chlorobenzene in water samples were below the detectable level of 2 ppm. The report, however, expressed the need for study involving other contaminants in environmental and biological media other than DDT, HCH pesticide residues, mercury and VOCs covered under the study in question.

First Published: Apr 29, 2006 01:31 IST