Endosulfan: studies to be submitted to apex court

Government prepares a collection of research papers on the pesticide's impact on health

The government will submit a synopsis of research papers on the health effects of endosulfan, published in international and national peer-reviewed scientific journals, before the Supreme Court this week.

The court had earlier issued a temporary ban on manufacture and use of endosulfan in the country on a petition filed by the Democratic Youth Federation of India.

The case is coming up before the court again on July 15.

The papers deal with how endosulfan affects the nervous, reproductive, endocrine and immune systems, and its toxicity and carcinogenic properties. They include a report on a case of chronic brain syndrome from Israel which is believed to be the first recorded case of such complication caused by endosulfan poisoning. There is also the case of a teenage girl with acute endosulfan poisoning who developed psychosis, seizures, myoclonic jerks, cortical blindness and limb rigidity. The study was done by Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow.

A study, jointly done by research centres in Denmark, Finland and Germany, titled Persistent Pesticides in Human Breast Milk and Cryptorchidism, suggests an association between congenital cryptorchidism and persistent organochlorine pesticides, such as endosulfan, present in mothers' breast milk. Prenatal exposure to organochlorine pesticides may adversely affect testicular descent in boys, it says.

Another study by University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi, says that organochlorine pesticides may be associated with preterm delivery and increased oxidative stress for the baby. A study from southern Spain on endosulfan and its metabolites in tissues and fluids of fertile women says that exposure from mother to child is a common event, both in utero and via breast feeding.

A detailed study by the National Institute of Occupational Health, Ahmedabad, has shown that exposure to endosulfan may delay sexual maturity of male children and interfere with sex hormone synthesis. A paper from Europe published in Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology says that endosulfan can lead to changes in circulating thyroid hormone levels and/or in peripheral thyroid hormone metabolism.

Impact on brain

A study by an Argentinean university showed that the brain was the most sensitive organ to oxidative damage from endosulfan. Sub-lethal concentration of endosulfan results in oxidative stress in several organs.

It has a major impact on human liver according to another study done in Europe and published in Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology. A study by ICMR Centre for Advanced Research in Genetics at the Lucknow Medical College showed that a concentration of one parts per billion of endosulfan can damage human red cell membranes.


A study from Brazil published in ‘Science of the Total Environment' indicated that endosulfan and all its metabolites have carcinogenic potential.

Another study from Sweden suggested that endosulfan is a tumour-promoting agent.

The collection also contains studies which conclude that endocrine disrupters such as endosulfan would cause early onset of puberty in girls and delayed puberty and decreased penile length in boys. There are also a number of studies on the effect of the pesticide on rats and fishes. The synopsis was prepared by Mohammed Asheel, Assistant Nodal Officer, Endosulfan Rehabilitation Project, Kerala.

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