North India: US missiles in Afghanistan suspected source of uranium in children with deformities
Friday, 10 April 2009
Uranium traces in special children baffle experts
Toxic scrap in Punjab rivers and Afghan winds could be the reasonRajesh Deol, Chandigarh, DH News Service:
After shocking revelations of high levels of uranium found through tests conducted on 150 mentally disabled children in Punjab, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has begun investigations to find the source of the radioactivity.
Medical experts are now close to the view that the mental disability in the 150 children housed at a Faridkot centre for special children could have been caused by high levels of uranium revealed in the samples of their hair and blood.
The children have been impaired in their ability to socialise and communicate. They also showed physical deformities like bent arms and legs, bulging eyes and overgrown heads.
Affects kidney, liver
Uranium is known to cause even damage to kidneys and liver.
After the revelations of the presence of the radioactive material in special children, a three-member team from the DAE, Mumbai, has been touring Faridkot to collect samples of soil and canal water. A team member said, “this is the first time uranium traces have been reported in Punjab.”
Among the possible reasons being explored by the team include water contamination caused by toxic scrap dumped in the Sutlej and Beas rivers flowing through Punjab and air contamination caused by uranium-laden winds from Afghanistan.
The team has also collected samples of drinking water from neighbouring areas and talked to parents of affected children about their living and dietary habits.
The evidence of toxins in children was first revealed through tests conducted after a South African toxicologist Dr Carin Smit noticed the deformities in children in an area of Faridkot district. Dr Smit is associated with a UK-based charity, ‘Defeat Autism Now’. The samples of hair of 150 special children were sent to a German laboratory which confirmed the presence of toxins.
Dr Smit, who was here recently, has now taken urine samples of 43 children for further tests in the UK for more evidence.
Prithpal Singh, who heads the Baba Farid Centre for Special Children at Faridkot says, “the children at my institution are unable to carry out normal daily activities. They do not feel the pain even if they get hurt or are bitten by a bug."