Birth deformities near Indian uranium mines to be researched

The health issue came to the attention of the High Court earlier this year after pictures of Jadugora’s deformed children appeared in the Indian press. The court in February ordered Uranium Corp. to produce documents that might shed light on the health issues. The court noted then that children living near the mines in Jadugora are “born with swollen heads, blood disorders and skeletal distortions.”

India Court Orders Uranium Corp. to Probe Deformities Near Mines Bloomberg By Rakteem Katakey and Tom Lasseter  Aug 20, 2014 India’s sole uranium mining company is being ordered by a regional court to disclose radiation levels and the presence of any heavy metals in soil and water in a cluster of villages with reports of unusual numbers of deformed and sick children.

The order by the Jharkhand High Court also mandates thatUranium Corp. of India Ltd.explain how it ensures the safety of nearby civilian populations who may be exposed to its 193-acre (78-hectare) radioactive waste dump near the village of Jadugora in eastern India.

The move comes about a month after a Bloomberg News story chronicled the plight of parents living near the Uranium Corp. mines who are seeking answers to what’s sickening and killing so many of their kids. The story also reported that local residents routinely wander the unfenced dump sites and fish and bathe in a river that receives water flowing from the dumps, known as tailings ponds. The Bloomberg article was submitted to the judges of the High Court by Ananda Sen, the lawyer appointed by the court to review the case.

Uranium Corp. has denied its mining operations have anything to do with village health issues. In 2007, a survey of more than 2,100 households by an Indian physicians group found mothers in villages 1.5 miles from the mines reported congenital deformities more than 80 percent higher than the rates just 20 miles (32 kilometers) away, with reported child death rates from such abnormalities more than five times as high.

Independent Experts



The court order stopped short of requiring independent experts to conduct long-term studies of village health issues to get to the bottom of the mystery, which had been called for by outsiders, leaving the probe in the hands of the company. Uranium Corp. “is at liberty to take assistance of any expert, as they deem fit,” according to the document, issued on Aug. 7 by Chief Justice R. Banumathi.

One Indian nuclear power expert who has been following the matter said he doubted that leaving the investigation with the company would resolve the issue. “I can’t imagine any UCIL committee would find a problem with their Jaduguda operations,” said M.V. Ramana, a physicist and India nuclear-energy specialist at Princeton University’s Nuclear Futures Laboratory, said in an e-mail interview, using an alternate spelling of Jadugora. “The only way this could provide any meaningful input into the debate over whether there is cause for concern in UCIL operations is if the court orders were very specific.”………

During the hearing this month, officials from Uranium Corp. and the Department of Atomic Energyassured the chief judge of the high court there were no threats to the environment or the health of people near the mines, said Rajesh Shankar, the lawyer representing the Jharkhand state government.

Not Satisfied

“The court was not satisfied, because these congenital diseases are occurring, mainly with children in that area,” Shankar said in a phone interview on Aug. 19. “These things can’t be denied, these things are there in that village.”

Uranium Corp. spokesman Pinaki Roy didn’t answer two calls and a text message to his mobile phone yesterday seeking comments. An e-mail to Acharya and Roy went unanswered……….

Doubtful Job

Ramana of Princeton said a proper investigation would include a thorough survey of diseases both in villages near the mines and those farther away; extensive measuring of a broad range of potential contaminants in the environment and inside peoples’ homes; and a careful examination of water, soil and food. Ramana has written extensively about Jadugora and has previously called for testing in the area to explain the apparent cluster of physical deformities.

The court in its order said doctors and experts should be included in the inspection team. It didn’t list what sort of scientific measures it expected the Uranium Corp.-appointed panel to carry out.

Swollen Heads

The health issue came to the attention of the High Court earlier this year after pictures of Jadugora’s deformed children appeared in the Indian press. The court in February ordered Uranium Corp. to produce documents that might shed light on the health issues. The court noted then that children living near the mines in Jadugora are “born with swollen heads, blood disorders and skeletal distortions.”……..http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-21/india-court-orders-uranium-corp-to-probe-deformities-near-mines.html

 

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