The prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association last month published a ground breaking study carried out by the Sambhavna Trust Clinic which conclusively proves that the poison gases released by Union Carbide’s factory in Bhopal on December 3rd 1984 have had a severe medical impact on a generation unborn at the time of the disaster.
The findings, which relate to physical abnormalities of male children born to women who breathed Carbide’s gases, not only further the understanding of the long term effects of methyl-isocyanate exposure, but have important legal implications as the question of compensation for these children must now arise.
The beggarly compensation paid by Carbide in 1989 only referred to civil awards for the over half a million people who had by that time filed claims. Unbelievably, The Indian and Madhya Pradesh governments – and therefore the Indian tax payer – have been left to pick up the costs of health care, economic support and social rehabilitation schemes. They must not be forced to take on the developing liabilities that this study confirms. These must be borne by the shameless Dow-Carbide, who in their erroneously titled ‘Bhopal factsheet’ lie that “massive, one-time exposure to MIC has not caused cancer, birth defects, or other delayed manifestations of medical effects”.
JAMA study exposes effects of Union Carbide disaster
The Journal of American Medical Association [JAMA] has published a study carried out by the Sambhavna Trust Clinic showing growth retardation among children conceived by parents exposed to the toxic gases of Union Carbide after the December 1984 disaster. The study published in the October 8th issue of the prestigious medical publication shows that male offspring of exposed parents are shorter, lighter, thinner and have smaller heads than sons born to unexposed parents in the same period. Sons of exposed parents showed abnormal growth in which their upper bodies were disproportionately smaller than their lower bodies.
Members of the Sambhavna Trust Clinic criticized government research agencies for their failure to document the long term health impacts of the Union Carbide disaster and demanded that the American Dow Chemical Company, present owner of Union Carbide, compensate for the harm caused to the second generation of victims.
Nishant Ranjan, Community Researcher at Sambhavna Clinic and first author of the report said that information on body weight, height, sitting height, mid-arm circumference, head circumference, and triceps skinfold of 141 adolescents born between January 1982 and December 1986 were collected for the study. The height, weight, and socioeconomic status of their parents were also recorded. Parents of 71 adolescents were exposed to Methyl isocyanate [MIC] and other gases during the December ’84 disaster while parents of 70 adolescents with similar socio-economic background were not exposed to Union Carbide’s poisons.
Dr. Mohammed Ali Qaiser, physician at the Sambhavna Clinic, said that the selective growth retardation of boys is an unexpected and puzzling finding. He pointed out that one of the degradation products of MIC is trimethylamine, and a Canadian study has shown that this can lead to selective growth retardation of male progeny of mice. It is possible that MIC or other poisons produced similar hormonal effects in Bhopal adolescents.
Satinath Sarangi, Managing Trustee of Sambhavna and one of the authors of the study pointed out that a similar study was initiated by the Indian Council of Medical Research [ICMR] but was prematurely terminated despite objections by the principal investigator. He held the Indian government responsible for aborting the study to help reduce the liabilities of Union Carbide. According to Mr. Sarangi, tens of thousands of second generation adolescents are potentially marked by Union Carbide’s poisons and Dow Chemical, Carbide’s new owner, must be made to pay compensation for these damages. He also called upon the ICMR to resume medical research in Bhopal and publish the results of its decade long studies in Bhopal without delay.
Dr M A Qaiser