Premature Greying of Hairs, Premature Ageing and Predisposition to Cancer in Jajjal, Punjab: A Preliminary ObservationCorrespondence Address :
Dr. Ashutosh Halder, Associate Professor. Dept. of Reproductive Biology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi-110029, India.
Tel.: 011-26593304 ext. 4211/09313309579 (m); fax: 011-26588663; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contributors and guarantor: AH planned, designed, organised, coordinated and carried out the survey. He also did data analysis, interpretation, and data drafting of the article. He will act as the guarantor of the paper.
Reproductive, developmental, and neoplastic disorders due to occupational pesticide exposure are an international issue (1),(2). There has been increasing anxiety following several media reports concerning health-related problems such as cancer, infertility, malformation, abortion, developmental delay, etc. in Punjab, particularly in Jajjal of Bathinda (3),(4),(5),(6). Punjab Pollution Control Board and Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, have reported through press a close association between environmental pollution and cancer in Jajjal (7),(8). To assess the authenticity of above reports this preliminary survey was carried out.
A preliminary survey was undertaken during a documentary film production for Public Service Broadcasting Trust on the issue of pesticides (granted by the Ministry of Environment, India), to assess the authenticity of reported health effects, in particular reproductive and cancer, in Jajjal village of Bathinda, Punjab. Observations were gathered on reproductive and other health effects, using both qualitative and quantitative methods. The qualitative phase consisted of brief interviews (volunteered to provide information) in school, market, medical clinic, and club from farmer, shop keeper, school teacher, alternative medical personnel, student, and unemployed in Bathinda (city and several villages) for any noticeable medical disorder. In the quantitative phase, data were obtained from randomly selected 15 families (from both higher and lower socioeconomic group for equal representation, i.e. random stratified) consisting of 596 individuals, from Jajjal village (most severely affected village). Information was obtained on current age, gender, age at menarche, age at puberty, infertility, time to pregnancy, sex determination, family size, contraception, abortion, malformation (particularly cryptorchidism, hypospadius, and neural tube defect), stillbirth, postnatal death, mental deficiency, age of menopause, premature greying of hairs (more than 50% greying of scalp hairs before the age of 40 years), premature ageing (more than 10 years older in appearance than corresponding chronologic age), cancer, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, joint pain, and any other significant problem. Information was also obtained on source of drinking water. Survey was assisted by village chief, school head master, and two local non-government organisations. Consent (verbal) was obtained for the use of data, including photograph and video recording for academic use and video documentary.
The age range of survey population was between <1 and 92 years. There were 330 males and 266 females, i.e. overall sex ratio of 806 (i.e. skewed). Premature greying of hairs (9) was seen in 28 individuals (4.7%) of both sexes (23 males and five females) and as early as 10 years of age (Table/Fig 1)(A, B). Premature ageing was seen in 19 males (3.2%) (Table/Fig 2). There were eight cases (four males: parotid, larynx, stomach and multiple myeloma; four females: breast, cervix in two, and bone) of death due to cancer in last 10 years. There were 118 boys between 13 and 23 years of age and 15 failed to show puberty (voice change and moustache; enlargement of external genitalia also failed in four cases); however, growth spurt was normal. There were 85 girls between the age of 13 and 20 years. All except five girls had started menstruation before completion of 15 years. There were seven cases of infertility, 10 cases of neonatal and infantile death (five males five female), four cases of mental sub-normality, five cases of dia
I would like to thank Mr. Sumit Khanna, independent filmmaker, Mumbai, India, for inviting and arranging facility for the survey in Bathinda. I also would like to thank Mr. Surinder Singh, Jt. Director, Khetivirasat (NGO), and Mr. Umendra Dutt, Kheti Virasat Mission (NGO), for assisting with the local people. I acknowledge Ms. Raminderjeet Kaur, PhD student, Human Biology, Panjabi University, Patiala, Punjab, for language interpretation during the survey. I am grateful to Mr. T Heinemann (Journalist) and LL Cour (photographer) of Heinemann Medier, Copenhagen, Denmark, for providing some photographs.
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