Bhopal gas tragedy: cancer rates treble
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Mumbai: It was undoubtedly the world’s worst industrial disaster but 26 years on, the skeletons of the past still haunt the population. The Indian Council of Medical Research has carried out more than 18 studies on the health impact of Methyl IsoCyanide (MIC) gas, which people in Bhopal were exposed to.
The latest, a 19-year long, as yet unpublished, study on Cancer Patterns has some startling findings.
According to a study conducted from 1989 -2008, incidents of cancer in areas affected by Methyl Isocyanide (MIC) increased by 72 per cent during this period.
Cancer rates for women in MIC-affected sites shot up by 115 per cent, compared to 82 per cent increase among women in areas not affected by the leak.
Cancer in all sites — MIC-affected as well as those unaffected — increased in men by 3.4 times and in women by 2.5 times.
While the ICMR says that more studies are required as cancer rates have gone up country-wide, doctors in Bhopal are more categorical.
Dr Shyam Aggarwal, Cancer Specialist said, “You cant rule cancer in the MIC affected areas. Even if you isolate all other factors, MIC’s link cant be ignored.”
Apart from M-I-C, the gas cloud also contained phosgene, hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide and hydrogen chloride — the inhalation of some of these, even IF it’s momentary — can cause cancer.
Dr Sachim Almel, Medical Oncologist, Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai said, “It can practically affect all organs in the body, at the cellular level, it can cause damage to DNA, which this damaged DNA or whatever mutation has occurred can be transmitted across to the generations.”
ICMR plans to carry out further research to determine the cancer link in the second generation of people exposed to poisonous gases. Just as in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, survivors were followed for up to four decades to evaluate the exact health fall-out.