People still suffering from
aftermath of Bhopal Gas Disaster

Free Press 4.12.2000

BHOPAL (UNI): Gokuldas Jain is a frequent visitor to the local government hospital here. His complaints range from blurred vision to that of bronchial asthma. Doctors attribute his "persistent sickness" to that of neglect and overwork. Gokuldas, however, "blames" it on the accidental inhalation of methyl isocyanate more than one and a half decades ago.

Breathlessness, persistent cough, blurred vision, early age cataract. menstrual irregularities, neurological disorders, fatigue, weakness, anxiety and depression continue to plague the survivors of the worst industrial disaster of the millenium. Banu Bi has survived the industrial disaster but has pent up memories packed in her heart. "I was literally thrown into a mortuary from a local hospital", recalls the 45 year old Banu Bi.

Having lost her 2 month old infant in the Bhopal Gas Disaster in 1984, Banu Bi carries on with her life groping with a host of medical problems. With blurred vision and respiratory problems the latest in the array includes several gynaecological complications, including white discharge and severe pain in the lower abdominal region. "I attribute all this to the toxicity of the gas inhaled", she said when asked on the correlation between the two. Reproductive disorders had been cited as one of the "pernicious" impairment caused by the banality of the toxic methyl isocyanate gas that was emitted from the Union carbide factory.

despite the absence of "concrete" statistical evidence to unfold the voracity of the "parallelism" between the two, women inflicted with reproductive and gynaecological problems candidly confess that the "noxious" gas was responsible for their ailments.

Another teenager of the gas affected area has a menstrual related problem which she ascribes to the disaster. The 16 year old girl whose menstrual cycle started briefly after taking medicines, still faces menstrual problems as it stopped soon after discontinuation of medicines.

"She was almost 4 years of age when the disaster occurred and had been severely affected by the gas", her mother says. Corroborating with these correlations, an international study titles "Occupational and environmental reproductive hazards" maintains that the female reproductive system is a complex system that requires regulated local and circulating hormones for proper functioning. Normal reproductive function in the female requires integration of the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian access (HPOA) and proper functioning of each of its components. Interference at any level by a xenobiotic (toxic chemical) may ultimately impair normal ovarian processes. Clinically disruption of the access could manifest as amenorrhea, menstrual disorder or reduced fertility. However, rebutting the charges that the lethal methyl isocyanide has anything to do with these diseases, official sources maintained that menstrual disorders or other gynaecological problems were not found to be "alarming" among the exposed population and there was no statistical evidence to"parallel" the two.

The possibility that the exposed population at a later date might develop some hitherto unsuspected complications cannot be ruled out, the study had said adding that there was an urgent need for keeping the exp.[osed population under constant medical surveillance. Underlying the patholoicgal considerations of the toxic gas disease, the study noted that the NCO group of the methyl isocyanide interacts with biological substances and groups such as end terminal amino groups, sulphydryl and hydroxyly groups. These effects were generally characterised by the term "carbomylation". Besides interacting with the DNA and several structural proteins like the hemoglobin, the MIC was also found to adversely affect several enzyme systems in the body. Experimental data shows that in rabbits, guinea pigs, rats and mice, exposure to 13-20 parts per million (ppm) of MIC invariably produced fatal pulmonary oedema.

According to official sources 36 of the total 56 wards of Bhopal city has been termed as "affected". A total of 10.29 lakh persons has been registered till 1999. Sources said adding that of these 4.88 lakh persons had been given compensation till last year. as many as 22 health centres have been established for the gas affected victims including 6 hospitals, 5 Ayurvedic centres and two polyclinics.