India, Punjab: water pollutants may cause genetic mutations, according to study
Updated - Monday 21 January 2008
Toxic chemicals in the water in Punjab could be causing genetic mutations in the population, according to a recent study conducted by the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGI). Preliminary results from the two-year study commissioned by the Punjab Pollution Control Board found mutated DNA in blood samples of 65 per cent of the people tested. Pesticides and heavy metals were found to have entered the food chain through irrigation with untreated wastewater. The research's chief investigator, JS Thakur, warned that there would be an “increased number of people suffering from cancer, bone deformities and gastrointestinal disorders in future''.
The study tested water from open sewers, groundwater and tap water. Eighty per cent of the groundwater samples had mercury levels above permissible limits. Arsenic was found in 70% of samples of effluent, 50% of tap water samples and 57.7% of ground water samples.
At a recent symposium on pesticides and environment in Ludhiana, some scientists disputed the findings of the PGI study linking cancer with increased pesticide use. The symposium highlighted the divide between those who say pesticides are essential for food security, and environmentalists who stress alternative methods of pest control.
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