Saturday, September 24, 2011

Shourya Missile successfully tested

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Sept 24: Shourya Missile, developed by the Defence Research
and Development Organisation, was successfully flight-tested at 2.30
pm on Saturday from the launch complex-III of Integrated Test Range in

According to an official statement here, the missile with a range of
700 km was launched from a canister in a ground launch mode. "The
launch of the missile was perfect like in textbook and followed the
path exactly to the predefined target in the Bay of Bengal. All the
radar stations, telemetry stations, electro-optical stations all along
the East Coast have tracked and monitored all the mission parameters,"
it said.

Ships located near the target have also tracked and witnessed the
final event. The missile has reached the target within few metres
accuracy.  It is equipped with multiple advanced computing systems,
very high accuracy navigation and guidance systems.

The missile is capable of carrying a war head of one tonne including
nuclear weapons.

DRDO chief controller Dr Avinash Chander congratulated all the
scientists and employees of DRDO and other establishments. DRDL
director Dr P Venugoplalan, ITR director Dr SP Dash, System Planning
and Implementation Centre director Dr Satish Kumar, and programme
director Dr AK Chakravarti monitored all the preparatory operations.

Dr A Joseph, project director, and his team prepared the missile and
conducted the launch flawlessly.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Neutrinos: When speed gets a new maximum limit

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Sept 23: City astrophysicist Dr BG Sidharth's theory on the
speed of sub-atomic particles neutrinos on Friday got a strong
scientific backing with the European physicists announcing that the
neutrinos have crossed the cosmic speed barrier.

It's a long held view that light travels at the speed of 29,97,92,458
metres per second and the famous theory of relativity proposed by
Albert Einstein is based on this speed barrier in physics. Now the
experiment carried out by Oscillation Project with Emulsion Tracking
Apparatus (Opera) at the CERN laboratory, 1.4 km below the earth, in
Geneva showed that neutrinos travelled at a speed of 29,97,98,454
metres per second. This exceeds the limit of speed in the universe.

Dr Sidharth, who heads BM Birla Science Centre, predicted way back in
2000 that the speed of neutrinos may show a sensational deviation from
Einstein's theory of relativity. His work replaces the usual Einstein
energy momentum formula with the so-called Snyder-Sidharth
Hamiltonian, which shows that the speed of neutrinos is slightly
greater than that of light.

"There are other interesting ramifications like the mass of a particle
and its antiparticle may differ slightly," Dr Sidharth pointed out.

The Opera result is based on the observation of over 15000 neutrino
events. The observation shows that neutrinos travel at a velocity 20
parts per million above the speed of light. European researchers,
however, are cautious of debunking the theory of relativity. "Given
the potential far-reaching consequences of such a result, independent
measurements are needed before the effect can either be refuted or
firmly established," says a CERN official release.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The so-called lower castes and tribals are genetically closer to one another than to people belonging to upper castes

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad:  The so-called lower castes and tribals are genetically 
closer to one another than to people belonging to upper castes.
An original research study by the city-based Centre for Cellular and 
Molecular Biology reveals that lower caste populations in India are closer to 
tribal populations because of the tribal origin of the lower castes.
According to CCMB senior scientist Kumarasamy Thangaraj, the origin of 
the caste system in India has been a subject of debate with many linguists and 
anthropologists suggesting that it began with the arrival of Indo-European 
speakers from Central Asia about 3500 years ago. Previous genetic studies 
based on Indian populations failed to achieve a consensus in this regard.
In the present study the CCMB scientists analysed the Y-chromosome and 
mitochondrial DNA of three tribal populations of southern India and 
compared the results with available data from the Indian subcontinent in an 
attempt to reconstruct the evolutionary history of Indian caste and tribal 
The scientists did not find any significant difference in the mitochondrial 
DNA between Indian tribal and caste populations, except for the presence of 
a higher frequency of west Eurasian-specific haplogroups in the higher 
castes, mostly in the north western part of India. On the other hand, the study 
of the Indian Y lineage revealed distinct distribution patterns among caste 
and tribal populations.
"The paternal lineage of Indian lower castes showed significantly closer 
affinity to the tribal populations than to the upper castes. The frequencies of 
deep-rooted Y haplogroups such as M89, M52, and M95 were higher in the 
lower castes and tribes, compared to the upper castes," says Dr Thangaraj. 
The study suggested that the vast majority (more than 98 per cent) of the 
Indian maternal gene pool, consisting of Indo-European and Dravidian 
speakers, is genetically more or less uniform, suggesting that invasions after 
the late Pleistocene settlement might have been mostly male-mediated.
However, Y-SNP data provided compelling genetic evidence for a tribal 
origin of the lower caste populations in the subcontinent. Lower caste groups 
might have originated with the hierarchical divisions that arose within the 
tribal groups with the spread of Neolithic agriculturists, much earlier than the 
arrival of Aryan speakers.
The Indo-Europeans established themselves as upper castes among this 
already developed caste-like class structure within the tribes. The Indian 
society and culture might have been affected by multiple waves of migration 
and gene flow that occurred in the historic and prehistoric times.
The first among this is the ancient Palaeolithic migration by the modern 
humans during their initial colonisation of Eurasia. This is followed by the 
early Neolithic migration, probably of proto-Dravidian speakers, 
from the eastern horn of the Fertile Crescent. The Indo-European speakers, 
who might have arrived about 3,500 years ago, are the third potential source 
of Indian gene pool.
"Indian tribal and caste populations derived largely from the same genetic 
heritage of Pleistocene southern and western Asians, receiving limited gene 
flow from external regions since Holocene. The paternal lineage of Indian 
castes are more closely related to the Central Asians than to the Indian tribal 
groups, thereby supporting the view that Indian caste groups are primarily the 
descendants of the Indo-European migrants," Dr Thangaraj points out.
The newly defined Indian-specific mitochondrial sub-clad, M41, was found 
in about five per cent of the Pardhan samples. This lineage was previously 
reported as an undefined M lineage found at a very low frequency in caste 
(Brahmin, Yadava and Mala) and tribal (Koya and Lambadi) populations of 
AP, but not anywhere else in India.
Indian populations were founded by a rather small number of females, 
possibly arriving on one of the early waves of out-of-Africa migration of 
modern humans; ethnic differentiation occurred subsequently, through 
demographic expansions.
The results suggest that the Indian subcontinent was settled soon after the 
initial out-of-Africa expedition, and that there had been no complete 
extinction or replacement of the initial settlers; rather it might have been 
restructured in situ by the major demographic episodes of the past, and by the 
relatively minor gene flow due to the recent invasions from both the West 
and the East.
The lower caste shows more similarity with the tribal groups than with the 
upper caste populations (4.72 per cent difference between the upper 
and lower castes). This is suggestive of a tribal origin for the Indian lower 
castes. Geography does not seem to have affected this association of the 
tribal groups with the lower castes. At the same time, significant variation 
(6.17 per cent) was observed between upper castes and tribal groups. 
However, variation of Dravidian tribal groups with Dravidian higher castes 
was found to be lower (4.4 per cent) than that with Indo-European speaking 
north Indian higher castes (8.1 per cent).

Laugh a day keeps the doctor away

By Syed Akbar
For the health conscious Hyderabadis, "an apple a day keeps the doctor 
away" is no longer the magic mantra. This age-old proverb has just 
metamorphosed for the stress-ridden Hyderabadis, who now believe that 
"laugh a day keeps the doctor away".
No wonder then that the number of laughter clubs in twin cities has doubled 
in just a couple of years. And the number is growing fast with new clubs 
added to the list every month as more and more people are turning to 
"laughter therapy" or "Hasya Yoga". The city has a couple of Hasya Yoga 
centres where chronic health problems are simply "laughed out" without the 
prescription of any conventional medicines.
Says Dr Sriranga Lakshmi, consultant neurologist at Apollo Hospitals, 
DRDO, "when one laughs the neuro transmitters get activated and when these 
are activated one overcomes depression. The work efficiency goes up. 
Moreover, laughing also leads to our facial muscles and the whole body 
being exercised resulting in burning of  body calories".
One minute of a good bout of laugh is equivalent to 10 minutes of jogging. 
"All one has to do is a hearty laugh, just smiling and giggling will not help", 
says OA Seth, secretary of Hasya Yoga Club, KBR Park.
Seth points out that laughter therapy beats stress effectively and solves health 
problems like high blood pressure, heart ailments, depression, cough and 
cold, peptic ulcers, insomnia, allergies, asthma and migraine and even cancer-
related stress.
Shirin Panjwani, who runs a "laughter clinic", gives examples of two persons 
recovering from severe health problems through simple laughing techniques. 
Stating that "laughter is inner jogging", Shirin recalls how one Shyamala 
Reddy got rid of chronic sinus problem within six months of taking to 
laughter therapy.
"After all conventional medicines failed to give relief, Shymala Reddy 
underwent laughter therapy. Within three months she set aside all her 
woollen clothes she used to wear to keep herself warm to reduce sinus 
problem. And within six months she got rid of the problem. Another person, 
an officer in LIC, had his facial texture improved within a month of joining 
the laughter club. All the wrinkles on his forehead vanished in no time," she 
Hasya yoga or laughter therapy is a 5000 year old Indian tradition that 
modern-day Indians have forgotten to utilise for their benefits. As the A 
Japanese proverb says, "time spent in laughter is time spent with God", but 
the Indian ancient texts have emphasised the importance of laughter in one's 
life thousands of years before the Japanese learnt to employ the technique.
Laughing leads to release of endorthins from different parts of the body, 
brain etc. These help in dilation of the blood vessels and improved blood 
circulation resulting in good health, according to Dr Suchi Madhusudan, 
consultant endocrinologist.
Dr Madan Kataria, who is known as the "Hasya Yoga Guru" and runs a 
website extolling the importance of laughter therapy, argues that since more 
than 70 per cent of illnesses have some relation to stress, laughter is the best 
medicine to treat mind-related diseases.
Laughter reduces the release of stress related hormones and aids in 
relaxation. "Our studies have shown that people suffering from a variety of 
diseases have benefited in some way or the other. There is a 10-20 mm drop 
in blood pressure after a 10 minute laughter session. The daily guffaws 
strengthen the immune system of the body by helping to increase the count of 
natural killer lymphocytes and raise the antibody levels. The antibodies in the 
mucous membranes of the nose and respiratory passages increase after 
laughter therapy," according to Dr Kataria.
A typical laughter yoga session in city parks, mainly KBR and Indira parks, 
lasts between 20 and 30 minutes as too much of laughter is also bad for 
World-wide there are 3000 laughter clubs and of them Mumbai has 90 and 
Bangalore 78. With new laughter clubs coming up in the city, Hyderabad is 
all set to beat Mumbai and Bangalore when it comes having a "hearty laugh".

US Looks to India for Research on Medicinal Plants for Cancer Cure

By Syed Akbar
With more and more health-conscious Americans turning to plant products 
for their daily needs, the United States is now looking towards the ancient 
Indian systems of herbal medicine to unravel the secrets of cure hidden in 
herbs native to sub-continent.
A team of American researchers visited Hyderabad early this week to chalk 
out a strategy with local scientists to develop new medicinal products from 
natural sources like plants and herbs. America does not have traditional 
medicine while India has a heritage of natural medicinal products that trace 
back in history to more than 5000 years.
The American scientists will utilise the traditional knowledge of herb-based 
Indian medicinal systems like Ayurveda, Unani and Sidda and explore their 
curative properties as part of their project to validate the medicinal properties 
of the herbs grown on Indian soil. The emphasis will be on new herbal drugs 
for cancer, malaria and other life-threatening diseases, besides natural 
pesticides for agricultural use.
The demand for consumer products derived from plants, herbal products, 
botanicals, dietary supplements, phytomedicines and nutraceuticals, 
dramatically increased in the US in the past five years. But, the quality of the 
products that are on the marketplace is highly variable and neither the 
consumer nor the healthcare professional is able to distinguish between high 
and low quality products.
"India has a rich tradition of herbs and herbal products. But many of them 
lack scientific validation. Our research collaboration with the Americans will 
help us understand these natural products in a more scientific way," says Dr 
JS Yadav, director of the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology.
The IICT and the National Centre for Natural Products Research, University 
of Mississippi, have tied-up to discover new drugs from natural sources. 
While India provides its rich and varied herbarium to the Americans, the 
latter will revalidate the medicinal properties of Indian herbs for effective use 
for the benefit of humanity at large.
Over the years, natural products have been the mainstay of drug discovery 
programme. Although several other systems have come into being, desired 
results could not be obtained. Hence the focus is again shifted to natural 
products, says Prof Larry Walker, director of NCNPR, USA.
Natural products are currently used across the world as herbal drugs, dietary 
supplements and neutraceuticals. With increase in demand for the natural 
products, big pharma companies from across the globe have once again 
shifted their attention towards natural products and increased their efforts 
towards finding new bioactive molecules from them.
According to Prof  Ikhlas Khan, director, FDA programme, USA, natural 
products offer a vast and virtually unlimited source of new agents for both 
pharmaceutical and agrochemical industries. "As part of the MoU signed 
between IICT (CSIR) and NCNPR, we are conducting basic and applied 
multidisciplinary research to discover and develop natural products for use as 
pharmaceuticals, dietary supplements and agrochemicals, and to understand 
the biological and chemical properties of medicinal plants," he points out.
The Indo-US research focus will be on discovering new drugs for unmet 
therapeutic needs such as cancer and infectious diseases, improving the 
quality and safety of botanical dietary supplements, and discovering new, 
effective agrochemicals that will not harm the environment. It will also target 
on discovering bioactive natural products, developing novel technologies and 
processes that facilitate the discovery of bioactive natural products and 
providing research based information on plant-derived products with 
medicinal or agricultural applications.
Prof Walker says that emphasis will be on agents that control certain 
infectious diseases, cancer and immune disorders. Chemical constituents 
responsible for biological effects are identified and then either isolated and 
purified in the search for new single entity pharmaceutical ingredients, or 
characterised and standardised in the search for new multicomponent 
botanical products.
Current products include the discovery and development of antifungal agents 
for life-threatening infections, anti-cancer agents that target specific critical 
processes in the cancer cell, antibiotics effective against bacteria that are 
resistant to many current antibiotics, new drugs for tuberculosis, malaria and 
other tropical parasitic diseases, antioxidants for cancer prevention, 
immunostimulatory botanicals, anti-inflammatory botanicals, and the 
development of Dronabinol Hemisuccinate suppositories to control nausea 
due to chemotherapy and for pain management.
"Our goal is to identify botanical products with the potential to improve 
human health and to conduct applied research that will enhance the safe and 
proper use of botanical products by heatlhcare professionals and consumers," 
says Prof Khan.
Although the science of pharmacognosy is enjoying a vigorous renaissance 
due to the widespread use of herbal medicine and natural products as 
supplements, Dr Yadav feels that challenges are being faced to authenticate 
and standardise these products.
On the other hand re-emerging diseases require new approaches and 
solutions. As history indicates, the best source for new chemical entities is 
the natural source. "In order to explore full potential of natural products the 
collaborative research is needed," he says.
"Our natural products research effort is a broad, multidisciplinary, integrated 
programme with three major emphasis areas: the discovery and early 
development of potential new drugs and agrochemicals from natural 
products; the understanding and science-based characterisation of botanical 
products used as dietary supplements; and research on medicinal plants, the 
production and processing of their pharmaceutical actives, and their potential 
for the development of alternative crops", observes Prof Walker.

Human health and pollution: How safe is the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe?

By Syed Akbar
How safe is the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe? 
Research studies show that with rapid urbanisation and consequent increase 
in pollution levels, the "burden of disease" has increased manifold during the 
last one decade.
Incidence of autism in children due to pollution increased 10 fold while male 
birth defects went up by two times with sperm count decreasing by one per 
cent every year. The burden of asthma in children shot up by 200 per cent 
even as acute lymphocytic leukaemia (cancer of white blood cells) recorded a 
62 per cent increase. Incidence of childhood brain cancer increased by 30 per 
cent. Preterm births recorded 23 per cent increase while infertility in couples 
went up by five to 10 per cent. Pollution is also the major factor in three to 
five per cent of birth defects in India.
The statistics are alarming. But more shocking are research reports that reveal   
that vegetables, fruits, cereals and even fish tend to accumulate heavy metals 
and dangerous chemicals from the soil. This simply means we consume a 
plethora of harmful chemicals and metals ranging from phthalate esters to 
mercury whenever we eat fruits or vegetables. These dangerous elements 
continue to accumulate in our bodies through food, water and air and cause a 
"synergetic effect", the overall result of which is disastrous to our health. The 
chemical accumulation in the food chain is because of water pollution and the 
increasing tendency to use sewage (treated or untreated) for horticulture.
The Environmental Working Group of the United States, in a chemical 
analysis of placental blood of 10 new born babies, found that on an average 
200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in the umbilical cord. The total 
number of chemicals that made their way into the blood stream of the babies 
through their mothers is a whopping 287.
Of the 287 chemicals detected in umbilical cord blood, as many as 180 cause 
cancer, 217 are poisonous to the brain and nervous system and 208 cause 
birth defects.
With pollution eating into the health, the adult mortality rate (probability of 
dying per 1,000 population between 15 and 60 years of age) for Indians by 
the World Health Organisation is as high as 275 for men and 202 for women. 
This is as against 91 and 48 respectively for Israel and 198 and 136 
respectively for Lebanon despite these two countries witnessing large-scale 
deaths in violence. If put in simple words, pollution has emerged a major 
killing factor as compared with deaths in insurgency or terrorism.
According to a National Environment and Health Action Plan report for India 
by the World Health Organisation, about 70 to 80 per cent of water borne 
diseases are caused due to contamination of surface and ground water due to 
discharge of untreated/partially treated sewage and industrial effluents into 
the water bodies.
The University of Hyderabad which conducted a study on horticultural crops 
grown on the polluted riverbed of Musi found "bioaccumulation" in a number 
of leafy vegetables, vegetables and fruits including pomegranates. Irrigation 
of agricultural fields with treated/ untreated effluent containing heavy metals 
such as chromium, lead, mercury or arsenic will also lead to absorption of 
harmful elements into plant bodies through roots.
Research by Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University revealed pesticide 
residue in vegetables and fruits. Though most of the pesticide goes off with 
the washing, still minute portions remain and this minute quantity goes on 
accumulating in the body causing serious health problems including cancer.
Another WHO report focusing on Southeast Asia region points out that over 
40 per cent of the global burden of diseases from environmental factors falls 
upon children below five years of age. More than five million children die 
each year from environmental-related diseases.
According to the report, in India each year over three million people die 
prematurely from water-related diseases and another two million succumb to 
indoor air pollution from smoky stoves. Infants and young children top the 
list followed by women from rural households. One million die from urban 
air pollution.
Increased industrialisation and urbanisation has resulted in hundreds of 
thousands of chemicals being released into the atmosphere every day. What 
worries the health experts is that the health hazards of only a very few of 
these chemicals are known. Most commonly used chemicals like 
organochlorines can cause grave harm to the unborn or new-born child. In 
some cases the foetus is also affected.
Studies by Hyderabad-based National Institute of Nutrition have shown that 
the milk of Indian mothers contains among the highest amount of the 
insecticide HCH (Hexachlorocyclohexanes) anywhere in the world. Another 
NIN report shows that excessive administration of veterinary medicines to 
cattle is leading to pharmaceutical residues in the cattle milk. No wonder then 
that you take a bout of veterinary medical residues along with your morning 
tea or coffee. Moreover, increased absorption and storage of toxins in the 
growing organs of children and adolescents increase the chance for 
development of serious or life threatening disease throughout life.
The chemicals and metals that have made their way into our bodies through 
either the food chain or vehicular pollution include mercury (accumulates in 
seafood and harms brain development); Polyaromatic hydrocarbons (from 
burning petrol or garbage and causes cancer);  Polybrominated 
dibenzodioxins and furans (plastic production and incineration, harms 
hormone system); Perfluorinated chemicals (from products like Teflon and 
food wrap coatings, birth defects and cancer); Polychlorinated 
dibenzodioxins and furans (from PVC production, causes cancer); 
Organochlorine pesticides (DDT and other pesticides, reproductive defects); 
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (furniture foam, computers, and televisions, 
affects thyroid); Polychlorinated Naphthalene (Wood preservatives and 
varnishes, causes liver and kidney damage); and Polychlorinated biphenyls 
(Industrial insulators, nervous system problems). 

The Ill Effects

At risk are our reproductive, immune and digestive systems. Harmful effects 
of pollution, particularly the air pollution (both indoor and outdoor), on 
human body have been well established by a series of studies in Hyderabad 
conducted by the National Institute of Nutrition, the Centre for Cellular and 
Molecular Biology, the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, the Institute 
of Genetics and Hospital for Genetic Diseases (Osmania University), Owaisi 
Hospital and Research Centre and Mahavir Hospital among others.
Atmospheric pollution can damage male and female reproduction, immune 
system, hearing, cardiovascular (heart) system and blood, liver, skin, lungs, 
brain and nerves, kidneys, stomach and intestines, hormonal system and 
vision and cause cancer and birth defects.
"Ozone layer depletion is occurring because of pollution, which is leading to 
UV light reaching earth", says dermatologist Dr Anup Lahiry adding that 
"this in turn is leading to sensitivity to light, skin allergies and ageing of the 
skin. Pollution is also making skin more oily and acme prone".
A study on the harmful effects of vehicular pollution on children by the 
National Institute of Nutrition showed that nearly one-third of those tested in 
Hyderabad had lead levels of 15 micrograms per decilitre or more in their 
blood. This is as against the upper permissible limit of 10 microgram per 
The study revealed that lead toxicity not only inhibits cognitive development 
and loss of intelligence but also causes anaemia and progressive damage to 
organs. Chronic low level exposure to lead damages organ system including 
brain, nervous system, haemoglobin synthesis and renal functions.
Automobile emissions enter lungs directly and from there into the blood 
stream. In some cases the pollutants enter bone marrow and remain there for 
as long as six years. The damage is gradual but irreversible.
Says consultant palmonologist Dr S Mallikarjun Rao, "industrial pollution 
and mainly vehicular pollution is leading to high levels of air pollution. The 
air has high levels of sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, 
suspended particular matter and other chemicals causing allergic reactions, 
recurrent cold, bronchitis, precipitate asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary 
disease, lung cancers etc. It also leads to increase in mental stress levels. 
There is increase in the incidence of such diseases in cities like Hyderabad in 
the recent past".
Heavy metal contaminants like mercury retard normal brain development and 
lead to permanent impairment. Vinyl teethers and plastic toys commonly sold 
in the Indian markets contain chemicals such as DEHP (Di (2-ethylhexyl) 
phthalate), that leach and hamper the development of the child's reproductive 
A survey by UNICEF in different parts of the country reveals that 19.3 per 
cent of under five children suffer from acute respiratory infections. 
According to WHO, indoor air pollution from solid fuels ranks fourth among 
risks to human health in developing countries and ranks higher still in India 
(third), just below malnutrition and lack of safe sanitation and drinking 
water. As many as 34,000 women die every year in the country due to 
chronic obstructive disorders.
No wonder then that the number of pollution related patients has increased in 
cities like Hyderabad, New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Chennai. 
"Lots of patients with respiratory allergies from simple running nose to 
severe asthmas are reporting of late due to air pollution. Constant exposure to 
noise due to vehicular traffic and blaring sounds from loud speakers can lead 
to hearing loss at an early age. Such noise can also lead to irritation. 
Prevention and protection is the best option," suggests senior ENT surgeon 
Dr Sajeet Kumar.
With the discovery of vaccines infectious diseases like polio, smallpox, 
diphtheria and rheumatic fever have declined. Surprisingly pollution-related 
health problems including asthma, autism, attention deficit and hyperactivity 
disorders, childhood brain cancer and acute lymphocytic leukaemia have 
increased in the recent past.


Pollution and infertility. May sound strange. But studies by the Hyderabad-
based Centre for Infertility Management, Hetero Research Foundation, 
Owaisi Hospital and Research Centre show that chemical pollutants like 
phthalate esters are causing endometriosis in women. What is worrying is 
that women are also passing on infertility to their sons, besides suffering 
themselves from the painful endometriosis.
"Women with endometriosis showed significantly higher concentrations of 
Di-n-Butyl Phthalate, Butyl Benzyl Phthalate, Di-n-Octy phthalate and 
diethyl Hexyl phthalate," points out fertility expert Dr Roya Rozati 
concluding that phthalate esters are instrumental in the aetiology of 
endometriosis. As many as 49 infertile women were studied for the purpose 
in Hyderabad.
Carbon monoxide from burning of fossil fuels combines with haemoglobin in 
the blood to form carboxyhemoglobin reducing the oxygen carrying capacity 
of the blood. This poisonous gas also contributes to adverse pregnancy 
outcomes, including miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight, and early infant 
"Environmental pollution is directly related to malfunction of testes leading 
to male infertility. It is also related to failures in treatment in reproductive 
units (test tube baby centres). It can also cause ovarian dysfunction, resulting 
in female infertility," warns Dr Meera Rajagopal a fertility specialist at 
Akshaya Fertility Centre.
Pollution is also stated to be the cause of undescended testis in infants. This 
is a common birth defect with two to five per cent of babies born having 
undescended testis. But with increasing levels of pollution, the percentage of 
children suffering from the problem has increased greatly even in developed 
countries like the USA. Pollution prevents testicles from completely 
descending into the scrotum during pregnancy. Children born with this defect 
are at higher risk for testicular cancer and breast cancer.
Five to 10 per cent of couples suffer from infertility-related problems. About 
50 per cent of pregnancies end in abortions and three to five per cent of 
babies are born with defects.
Health experts have found significant regional differences in sperm count 
that cannot be explained by differences in genetic factors. Pollution is also 
related to increasing incidence of hypospadias (deformed penis). Average 
sperm counts in industrialised countries appear to be declining at a rate of 
about one percent each year.

Incidence of cancers particularly of lung, breast, uterus, testicular, prostate 
and gastrointestinal tract. Exposure to chemicals like dioxin during foetal 
development has been found to cause endocrine-related cancers like breast 
and uterine cancers in women. Dioxin in men even in minute quantities (0.02 
to 10 parts per billion) will change the testosterone levels and cause diabetes 
and also changes the sex ratio of children i.e. a man with this much little 
quantity of dioxine in the blood will father twice as many girls as boys.
"Environmental pollution has several deleterious effects on diseases of 
kidney and urinary bladder. Some specific agents when exposed for a long 
time can also cause bladder cancer. Water pollution in relation to kidney 
stones is under investigation," says senior urologist Dr V Raja Gopal.
Childhood cancer cases increased by 27.1 per cent while brain and nervous 
systems cancers increased by 56.5 per cent. The incidence of testicular cancer 
also went up to 66 per cent. The effect of pollution on cancers can be gauged 
from the fact that only 10 per cent of cancers are related to genetic factors 
and the rest to environment pollution.
Pollution is being projected as a major factor for increase in breast cancer. A 
report by US Environmental Protection Agency points out that among girls 
born today, one in seven is expected to get breast cancer and one in 30 is 
expected to die from it. Among those 65 and younger, breast cancer 
incidence rose 1.2 per cent per year, corresponding to a doubling every two 
generations (58 years).
Consultant dietician Sunita Sapur says the gastrointestinal tract may get 
affected due to adulterated food. "The microvilli in the GI tract which 
produce enzymes for digestion also get affected which leads to digestive 
disorders and mal-absorption of essential nutrients. To remove toxic 
substances certain organs like liver, kidneys have to stretch their 
performance. Adulterated food can also cause cancers of the stomach, liver 
damage and kidney problems," she adds.
An EPA reports says the incidence of testicular cancer is doubling about 
every one and a half generations or 39 years. Testicular cancer is now the 
most common cancer in men in the age group of 15 to 35 years. Prostate 
cancer has emerged as the most common cancer among men and the second 
most lethal among all cancers.
"Tobacco and smoke cause environmental pollution and lead to lung cancers, 
laryngeal cancers, oesophageal cancers etc.," says medical oncologist Dr 
SVVS Prasad. Coloured agents in food are suspected to lead to cancers. 
Pickled foods containing nitrites and nitrates can cause stomach cancers. Soft 
foods without fibre can cause colon cancers. Pollution because of pesticides 
can cause cancers like non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. "Environmental pollution 
with radiation like radon gas emitted from concrete buildings can lead to 
cancers like leukaemia. Asbestos pollution can cause lung cancers. Radiation 
from X rays and atomic energy plants can also cause cancers," he observes.

The Pollutants

A number of environmental chemicals are potentially ototoxic or capable of 
damaging hearing or equilibrium. They include trichloroethylene used in 
household spot removers, rug cleaning solutions, paints, waxes, pesticides, 
adhesives and lubricants.
Solvents with neurotoxicity like Xylene used in paints, varnishes and 
thinners, can affect hearing by injuring the brain. Styrene, used in plastics, 
resins, synthetic rubber and insulation, disrupts the ability of the brain to 
process speech and other complex sound. Hexane, used in shoe factories, 
damages the hearing nerve pathways in the brain.
Carbon disulphide, an insecticide, causes hearing loss. Another chemical 
toluene can damage the hearing whether inhaled or absorbed by contact with 
the liquid form. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause injury to the delicate 
nervous system.
Butyl nitrate, used in room fresheners, causes loss of hearing.
Mercury poisoning causes unsteady walking, weakness, visual and sensory 
disturbances. Organic tin compounds used in the manufacture of 
polyurethane foam, silicone rubber and polyvinyl chloride causes severe 
health problems.
An exposure to methyl mercury to foetus will cause measurable damage to 
the functioning of the brain. A study by ZM Patel and RA Adhia of the 
Genetic Research Centre, National Institute for Research in Reproductive 
Health, Mumbai, on 17653 new-born babies revealed 294 (1.6 per cent) had 
major malformations and 1400 (7.92 per cent had minor malformations, 328 
(1.8 per cent) were stillbirths. Polygenic traits accounted for 45.1 per cent 
while chromosomal aetiology was found in four per cent. A genetic basis was 
found in 65.4 per cent of cases.

What To Do

There is no shortcut route to escape from the harmful effects of pollutants 
and chemicals that have made their way into our food chain. The US 
Environmental Protection Agency suggests that people should stay indoors as 
much as they can during days when pollution levels are high.
"Many pollutants have lower levels indoors than outdoors. If you must go 
outside, limit outside activity to the early morning hours or wait until after 
sunset. This is important in high ozone conditions because sunshine increases 
ozone levels," an EPA report points out.
Other steps suggested by EPA are: Don't exercise or exert yourself outdoors 
when air-quality reports indicate unhealthy conditions. The faster you 
breathe, the more pollution you take into your lungs. However, if you live or 
work close to a known pollution source, or if you have a chronic heart or 
lung problem, talk with your doctor about other ways to protect yourself from 
air pollution.
Though Ayurvedic doctors prescribe Panchakarma therapy to "detoxify" the 
body, unfortunately real and effective systems that detoxify and excrete 
industrial chemicals are not available. Ayurvedic doctors claim that 
panchakarma will eliminate environmentally toxic substances like 
polycholorinated biphenyl and pesticides through natural purification 
To protect from the pollution of radiation, one should wear good quality 
sunglasses. "Pollution leads to increase in the incidence of dry eye syndrome, 
which is a chronic problem in itself. One should wear glasses to reduce the 
problem," says Dr Shikha Fogla, consultant ophthalmologist.