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This website provides resources on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) such as pesticides, dioxins, PCBs, and wastes. Valuable examples of community monitoring of health and environmental impacts of toxic chemicals are also furnished.

Further, there is an entire section devoted to chemical safety in its proper socio-political context or in relation to issues such as globalization and people's empowerment.


India's cotton belt turning into 'cancer belt'

By Megha Mohan, Hindustan Times

FINALLY, VILLAGES in the Talwandi Sabo block of Bathinda district know why cancer is gripping the area. After an extensive study conducted in these villages, the PGIMER, Chandigarh, has found that it is pesticides that is turning this cotton belt into a “cancer belt”.

PGI's interim report, which is yet to be submitted to the government, states that most common cancers have been found to be that of breast, uterus, leukaemia, oesophagus, skin and ovary. The first phase of survey revealed that 80 per cent Talwandi Sabo villages had water pollution problem as compared to just 20 per cent in those of Chamkaur Sahib block.

The study clearly says the number of cancer cases in these areas –1.63/1,000 – tallies with the average number of cases – 2/1,000 – in India. The disease has been found more prevalent in women, with 80 women of 107 confirmed cases being in grip of it.

Two teams of PGI comprising four surveyors and one supervisor each with one medical officer in the group conducted the survey. The Ropar district was taken as the controlled area and the study here started from Chamkaur Sahib.

The interim report of the study says the cancer death rate in 2002 was almost two times higher at Talwandi Sabo as compared to Chamkaur Sahib. The team also culled retrospective record from main cancer hospitals catering to the area, including PGI, Oswal Cancer Hospital, Ludhiana, and Acharya Tulsi Das Regional Cancer Institute, Bikaner.

The study was conducted following the Punjab government direction to the Punjab Pollution Control Board to inquire into the reasons behind the high number of cancer cases in Talwandi Sabo block, after which the PPCB gave PGI Rs 10 lakh to conduct the study.

Chemical tests revealTHE ANALYSIS of water samples taken from Talwandi Sabo has been found laden with carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals), including toxic heptachlor in ground as well as tap water, high level of iron, chromium, arsenic, chromium and nickel. Even the vegetable samples reveal that heptachlor, a chemical banned in India, is being frequently used. Apart from heptachlor, the vegetables here are toxic with known carcinogens alpha-endosulphan, dieldrin and heptachlor, as well as aldrin, chlorpyrifos and others.

Experts, officials sayMEMBER SECRETARY, PPCB, Malwinder Singh says, “Though we are yet to receive the final report, the interim report strongly points towards overuse of pesticides as the major cause behind the high instances of cancer cases in Talwandi Sabo.”

However, principal investigator Prof Rajesh Kumar, Head of Department, Community Medicine and Cytology and Gynaecological Pathology, PGI, wasn't available for comments.

Meanwhile, a member of a PGI team, not willing to be named, said the results of two or three more rounds were awaited. “Samples have been dispatched to the Indian Toxological Institute, Lucknow, whose results would be incorporated in the final report,” he added.

However, Dr S.G. Kabra, a senior environmentalist at the Indian Institute of Health Management and Research, Jaipur, says, “The report is clear indication towards the fact that Punjab needs to be freed from the clutches of pesticides immediately. The extensive use of pesticides in cotton belt is spelling doom not only for flora but for fauna as well.”

Director of Kheti Virasat, an NGO working to conserve natural resources and ecology of Punjab, makes a point, “Punjab's environmental health is sitting on a volcano where pesticides should be urgently replaced with organic farming. The Punjab Agricultural University should form a directorate of organic farming to bring respite for farmers as well as the villagers of Talwandi Sabo block.”

Manila – An international coalition of activists today launched the 3rd Global Day of Action against Waste (GDAW) citing the increasing health impacts of polluting waste disposal practices which affect mainly children throughout the world.

More than a hundred groups from 35 countries participated this year in what has become an annual day of protest against unsustainable and dangerous waste disposal systems. Coordinated by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), this year’s protest highlighted recent evidence from the World Health Organization which indicates that more than 3 million children under the age of five are dying each year because of polluted air and water and exposure to other environmental hazards.

“To be really blunt about it, the worsening levels of pollution worldwide are killing children. Governments are obviously failing to protect children and the human population at large from harmful chemical assaults resulting from unsustainable and irresponsible practices such as incineration,” according to Von Hernandez, Co-Coordinator, GAIA.

Incinerators are linked to serious environmental health threats. Incineration alone is responsible for 69 percent of global emissions of the notorious pollutant dioxin which is linked to cancer, immune and reproductive system disorders, birth defects, and other health threats. Incineration is also a primary source of mercury, a potent neurotoxin, which builds up in the environment - especially aquatic ecosystems - and affects the brain, spinal cord, kidneys and liver. It is especially harmful to pregnant women and children.

“Many people are unaware that even backyard burning of household waste produces toxic gases and particulate matter that spread over wide distances, and can remain suspended for some time in the air where the trash was burnt. Families exposed to frequent burning of household waste in their neighborhood are at a risk for inhaling toxic by-products of burning such as dioxins and furans, which have been shown to be associated with cancer, weakening of the immune system, reproductive disorders, and other diseases. Children are especially susceptible because their natural defenses are not yet fully developed.” says Dr. Romeo Quijano, a toxicologist from the UP College of Medicine, and president of Pesticide Action Network Philippines (PAN Phils.).

In addition to the immediate pollution they create, incinerators and landfills also perpetuate wasteful and unsustainable production and consumption systems. Incinerators destroy resources, which would be better conserved for future use given the increasing pressure to harvest finite natural resources.

“Available evidence worldwide from various academic, governmental and international institutions indicate that many of the chemicals coming out of dumpsites, landfills and incinerators have also now been found in the human body. The fact that everyone is now contaminated with these harmful pollutants proves that we are now dangerously skirting the edge of the ecological precipice. How much harm are we willing to accept before we abandon these deadly ways of managing society’s discards,” added Hernandez.

GAIA is an international coalition of community-based organizations, research and policy advocacy institutions, citizen pressure groups and other nonprofit organizations and individuals working together to promote clean production, zero waste and sustainable discard management systems. GAIA members which now number 470 in 75 countries are committed to ending waste incineration and advancing real solutions to the waste crisis. A member of GAIA, PAN Philippines is a non-government organization that has engaged in various activities related to pesticides, health and environment for almost a decade now.

Original URL: http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/5922_993403,0015002000000094.htm

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Lawmakers want GMOs out of food and agriculture (by PAN Philippines)

Toxic waste from pesticides is ticking time bomb for poor countries, UN warns (by UN News Centre)

India's cotton belt turning into 'cancer belt' (by Hindustan Times)

Global demonstration against waste and pollution launched (by PAN Philippines)

Banned pesticide used in government-sponsored tree-planting project (by Pinoy Weekly)