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Cancer 2.5 times more prevalent in Bhopal gas tragedy victims: Survey

It covered 6,185 gas-exposed and 5,470 non-exposed people


Bhopal gas tragedy survivors staying close to the fateful Union Carbide factory have shown 2.5 times more prevalence of different types of cancers compared to the unexposed population living at least 8km away from the site of the tragedy, a survey by Sambhavna Trust Clinic revealed.

At a press conference organised on the eve of World Cancer Day (February 4), members of Sambhavna Clinic presented results of their community health survey, conducted among the population exposed to Union Carbide’s poisonous gas compared to an unexposed population in another part of the city.

The survey found that there were 37 cases of cancers (of different kinds, including lung, abdomen, and liver cancer) among the 6,185 gas-exposed (0.59 per cent) people compared to just 13 cases among the 5,740 non-exposed people (0.23 per cent). This shows that the prevalence of the deadly disease is more than 2.5 times in the gas-exposed population.

The clinic, run by the Sambhavna Trust (a registered charitable NGO) has been operational since September 1996 as an independent, community-based, non-governmental medical initiative concerned with the long-term welfare of the survivors. It offers an innovative blend of modern and traditional therapies free of cost to the victims of the disaster. The Sambhavna Clinic has provided long-term care to over 36,000 persons exposed to toxic gas and contaminated groundwater.

The latest survey by the clinic also found that the number of women with cancer in the gas-exposed population was significantly higher than women in the unexposed population. Also, the prevalence of lung cancer was found eight times higher in the gas-exposed population.

Premchand, database administrator of Sambhavna Clinic, shared the details of the survey. He said, “Last year we carried out a door-to-door survey, including 6,185 gas tragedy victims (exposed to the lethal methyl-isocyanate gas) residing within 2km radius of the Union Carbide factory. Alongside, we collected information from 5,740 individuals who were living more than 8km away from the factory and were not affected by the gas disaster of 1984. Only those cases of cancer with a diagnosis from a recognized clinic or hospital were included for the purpose of the study.”

“Additionally, we found that 12 of the cancer patients in the gas-exposed group were women compared to only two in the unexposed population. We identified one person with lung cancer in the unexposed population while there were 8 persons with lung cancer in the gas exposed population.” said Community Worker, Tasneem Zaidi.

Elaborating further on the survey, community worker Farhat Jahan said, “We took great care in choosing the communities so that both exposed and unexposed populations were matched in social and economic conditions. We also collected information on related matters such as tobacco consumption, and curiously, we found that the proportion of smokers and tobacco chewers were one and half times more in the unexposed population.”  

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