Allege flaws and inconsistencies in surveys held in Kasaragod

Two scientists from Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) have come out with a report highlighting serious flaws and inconsistencies in two independent epidemiological studies carried out in the endosulfan-affected areas in Kasaragod.

Authored by K.M. Sreekumar, entomologist at the College of Agriculture, Padannakkad, and K.D. Prathapan of the College of Agriculture, Vellayani, the report, published in the latest online edition of the Current Science journal of research, alleges major lapses in the analysis of endosulfan residues, lack of clarity in the incidence of physical disability, biased findings about change in sex ratio, and absence of data to substantiate higher incidence of cancer.

First study

Covering 1,000 respondents in five affected panchayats, the first study by the Department of Environmental Sciences, Pondicherry University, was carried out in 2008-09 by a team led by Asha Embrandiri.

Another study by Prabhakumari and co-workers from the Government Medical College, Kozhikode, in 2010, was submitted to the Union government by the State.

The report by the two KAU scientists flays the study by the Pondicherry University team, describing it as amateurish, prima facie unreliable, and based on a totally flawed methodology.

The study had not been designed properly nor was any statistical tool adopted for analysis and interpretation of data, it said.

The sample size of 1,000 was too small to derive any meaningful conclusion, and the health problems of the people in the affected areas were not compared with that of an unaffected population. The report said it was totally absurd to make comparisons between various categories of age to assess the impact of endosulfan.

The critique of the medical college study observes that the comparative study of the health problems in two villages was not based on adequate number of representative samples. “No attempt was made to compare the pesticide residue in blood plasma from 41 subjects in 11 panchayats with those from the reference population. Mass spectroscopy was not employed to confirm the results, a practice recommended by the Central government.”

Chromatograms of the pesticide residue analysis of blood serum accessed by the two scientists by invoking the RTI Act revealed that the readings agreed with values of only four of the 41 samples.

Social realities

The report said the inferences on reproductive health events in women had not taken social realities into account and there was no statistical comparison between the data generated during the period of pesticide application (1980 to 2000) and the period after.

It also highlighted the inconsistencies in the data generated by the two surveys on the prevalence of mental retardation and cancer.

Alleging opportunistic use of scientific claims, the paper said it was clear that the unsprayed and sprayed areas did not differ much in terms of the occurrence of diseases or disabilities.

“This vital information has been hidden from public view. The 2001 Census data shows that Kasaragod does not have an increased rate of mental or physical disabilities compared to other districts.”

The published report said no criterion, clinical or biochemical, was applied for the selection of victims of endosulfan spraying. “Persons with all types of common diseases and those living 10 to 15 km away from the cashew estates are included in the list of victims to avail of free medical aid and financial benefits.”

It said the propaganda and fear-mongering was taking a toll on the lives of the people in Kasaragod in general and those living in the affected areas in particular.

The report called for a comprehensive, multidisciplinary study to bring out the true picture of the issue that shook the conscience of the whole world.

  • Say no criterion applied for selection of victims

  • Propaganda and fear-mongering taking a toll