The committee set up by the Health Department to study the health hazards of endosulfan has reiterated the need for epidemiological studies in the villages of Kasaragod district affected by the pesticide.
Such studies had been recommended by other committees which looked into the problem in the past also. However, no action had been taken for years.
Doctors from the Kozhikode Medical College Udaya Bhaskar, A. V. Gopalan and T. Jayakrishnan, who conducted the study, said that adequate data was not available on the condition of patients. According to available information no vocational or social rehabilitation was provided to the victims and their families except medical rehabilitation.
Endosulfan exposure in villages
The committee observed that the major impacts of endosulfan exposure in the villages were increased congenital abnormalities including limb and cardiac abnormalities, severe mental retardations including cerebral palsy and hydrocephalous, cancers and skin diseases. Most of them lead to death or permanent disabilities which require life-long support even for daily life activities.
It noted that the effects of endosulfan might persist throughout life and might be inherited to the next generation. So, long term surveillance of the health events among the population and epidemiological studies to know the health hazards were needed. The environmental effects has to be studied by estimating levels of endosulfan in water sources, earth, milk and blood samples at periodic intervals. Epidemiological studies should be conducted among children of both sexes to assess hormonal effects.
Relief and remediation cell
The committee recommended that the endosulfan relief and remediation cell at Kasaragod should be strengthened. Currently, few professional were included in the Cell. It also called for integrated and coordinated action by different departments.
It suggested that reliable data base on endosulfan victims should be created based on medical camps held in the past and field based studies for updating the data. Victims could be classified disease wise and need wise. Financial, food, housing and employment assistance should be provided to the families of victims with permanent disability. Priority should be accorded to them in providing assistance under the EMS Housing Scheme, Indira Awas Yojana and National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. Five per cent of the Plan funds of the local self governments should be earmarked for the disabled.
It noted that mobility equipments might be given to the physically challenged besides providing them with special education. Locally viable, acceptable vocational rehabilitation could also be given. Special schools might be started for the mentally challenged, supported by transport services. Mild mental retardation or learning disability could be detected early by teachers or volunteers and given graded training.
Special clinics and wards
The committee also suggested that special clinics and wards could be started at the district hospitals for the victims. Arrangements for referral services could be made with departments in government medical colleges for specialist medical and surgical services. Community based home care volunteers could be trained for giving home based long term care including medications. Sustainability could be ensured by allocation of funds in the annual plans and periodic evaluation.