Even as the State government has sought a scientific study on the link between endosulfan and birth deformities, an interim report of an expert committee submitted two years ago to Supreme Court had painted a grim picture of the scene in Kerala and Karnataka.
The committee was headed by V.M. Katoch, Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the premier biomedical research body.
The committee was constituted while hearing a writ petition filed by the Democratic Youth Federation of India. Recently, the ICMR was approached by the Karnataka government to study the link between endosulfan and birth deformities.
Pointing out that adverse impact of the use of the pesticide were reported only from these two States, the Katoch-headed committee pointed out the ill-effects as reported in a survey of two gram panchayat areas undertaken by Calicut Medical College in 2010.
It said, “… reproductive morbidity, sexual maturity, congenial anomalies and cancer in younger ages were observed to be higher in the affected area.”
The committee, which visited parts of Kerala and Puttur in Dakshina Kannada, said, “Reproductive morbidities in respect of infertility, abortions, and intra uterine deaths are more frequent in the areas which were aerially sprayed with endosulfan.”
It added that infertility in women 30 years and older was significantly higher but among younger age group (20-29) infertility was comparable with the unsprayed area indicating that the probable effect of endosulfan is gradually coming down.”
It added, “Sexual maturity rating data shows delayed onset of puberty among boys and girls, however, this catches up at later age.”
Cancer rate higher
The incidence of cancer deaths among persons below 50 years was higher (2.1 per 1,000 population) in the exposed population as compared to 0.33 per 1,000 population in the control area, the committee said, quoting the 2010 study.
It pointed out that the prevalence of congenial abnormality among schoolchildren above 12 years (before the ban of endosulfan spray) was significantly higher in study area as compared to control area. A study undertaken by NIOH, however, indicated waning of the probable effect of the pesticide, the committee said.
The Katoch committee report said, “…soil and sediment samples show persistence of endosulfan in the area. However, the water samples do not have endosulfan. The biodiversity of the area has also been affected,” it concluded.
‘Phase it out’
The Supreme Court which sought “specific answers to the queries raised …” added more members to the committee, including a representative of the Union government. The broader committee in its report last year recommended phasing out of the pesticide. The writ petition is still pending before the court.