Experts express concern on growing environmental toxicity

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“Disease-burden including the incidents of cancer in India can be reduced to half if we prevent toxic components from leeching into our environment. Government must pay more attention to this area and bring the right kind of policies to address this issue.” this was the gist of the deliberations in a daylong seminar on “Cancer and Ecotoxicology” held at Panjab University by “International Centre for Biomonitoring & Ecotoxicology” and “Department of Environment, Panjab University” in association with Thakar Dei Mehra Charitable Foundation.

Dr. G.P.I. Singh, Vice Chancellor of Adesh University pointed out that it was not necessary that the skewed gender ration in Punjab is purely for sociological reasons. He mentioned that female foetus is more sensitive to toxics in the first trimester of pregnancy and therefore results in more frequent spontaneous abortion. “In Punjab the onset of puberty in females has advanced and that in males has been delayed due to pesticides. Many pesticides are hormone disruptor, mimicing estrogen and other harmones and hence affect human beings in more than one ways,” Dr. Singh added.

“Cancer can be prevented by controlling cancer causing agents i.e. carcinogens however India lacks any policy to regulate, ban or control the spread of carcinogens. The situation is so bad that we don’t even have a list of input chemicals used in our industries and no product is ever tested for it’s carcinogenicity in India,” social activist Hemant Goswami pointed out.

The present agriculture policies and strategies too have come from European and US countries, which were never an agrarian society and their use of agriculture and cultivation was only for commercial purpose by the use of slaves. By using an extension of policies formed in such a background, we can never find a solution to growing toxicity in our environment; Goswami added.

Adding to this Dr. J. S. Thakur of Community Medicine, PGI said that in India nearly 70 percent cancer were preventable if proper policies were adopted. Over a period of time the land of five rivers, Punjab has become the land of five big drains due to lack of attention and pollution which has thereby become a source of diseases, Dr. Thakur added.

“India and the world produces enough food, sufficient for twice the current population and all the emergency created to produce more and more by use of insecticides, GM crops, etc. is Industry driven, solely motivated by profit making which has no concern for environment and health. In this scenario, we have gone into a deceptive maze just like Abhimanyu of Mahabharata; we have entered the maze but don’t know how to come out of it,” food policy expert Devinded Sharma said. Sharma also gave examples to drive the point that healthy and sufficient food can be produced by using traditional organic methods. He emphasised that such efforts were being blocked by various interest groups driven by the industry.

Dr. Sukhdev Kundu, Chairman of “International Centre for Biomonitoring & Ecotoxicology” said that lack of proper biomonitoring and growing toxicity in our ecosystem is now reflecting in increasing disease burden and cancer rates in Punjab & Haryana. Dr. H.P. Singh, Chairman of Environmental studies said that the University will have more such programs in the University to bring such vital issues for consideration by the public and policy makers.

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