Punjab Newsline Network
Thursday, 02 April 2009
FARIDKOT: Big heads, bulging eyes, twisted hands that don’t reach their mouths and bent legs that can barely support their frail frames.
Intrigued by these abnormalities among children in a pocket of Faridkot, visiting South African toxicologist Dr Carin Smit had their hair samples sent to a German laboratory. The results, which have just come in, are shocking: the deformities were caused by alarmingly high levels of uranium.
‘‘The test results have left us baffled as there’s no apparent source of uranium in Punjab,’’ said Prithpal Singh, head of Baba Farid Centre for Special Children in Faridkot. More tests are now being organized among the 150 affected children with the help of a team of German and South African doctors to establish whether the traces found are from depleted uranium or natural sources.
Dr Smit, a clinical metal toxicologist from Johannesburg who is here to collect more samples of children’s hair and urine, said, ‘‘When I first saw such overwhelming evidence of severe brain damage, I thought it was poisoning. I never suspected uranium.’’
It was Smit’s liaison with a laboratory in Germany which specializes in toxicology that made the first tests possible. Now she, along with Vera Dirr, another specialist from Johannesburg, are here to collect urine samples. ‘‘Of the 149 children tested, 53 are likely to show more traces of uranium. We are now focusing on them to get more specific evidence,’’ Smit said. Since uranium severely harms the kidneys and liver, 53 kids are being tested for physical degeneration.
Courtesy Times of India, carried in the interest of Punjab