Monday, 13 July 2009

Climate change: Interesting, whacky ideas to fight ill effects of global warming

By Syed Akbar


Idea No. 1
===========


Injecting sulphur into the sky

What's the colour of the sky? Blue, of course. But if global warming
turns worse shooting up temperatures, mankind may have to explore this option to keep the human planet cool: Inject sulphur into the sky. Temperatures will come
down, but the sky will change its colour. May be to yellow. No matter how the sky appears, it will halt climate change.

Scientists the world over are now giving a deep thought to injecting sulphur or "global dimming" after Australian scientist Tim Flannery proposed this radical solution, which may no longer keep the sky blue.

According to him, climate change is taking place so fast that we may have to pump sulphur into the atmosphere if we want to survive on the earth. Sulphur when injected in its gaseous form into the earth's stratosphere will help prevent
harmful sun rays from falling on us. It will also slow down global warming.

Flannery is confident that this technology will become a reality in the next five years. The process is quite simple. Add sulphur to the fuel of jet engines or aeroplanes. Since the exhaust contains sulphur, it will settle down in the
stratosphere, reflecting back the sunlight.

As Flannery argues, adding sulphur to the atmosphere should be the
last barrier to climate collapse.

Sulphur emissions through automobiles may have been harmful for human and animal health. But this pollutant may become a saviour of mankind, if scientists like Flannery have their way.

Idea No. 2
==========
Feed the sea with iron

Human health and iron are synonymous. Iron keeps us alive by fixing atmospheric oxygen to the blood. In fact, our blood gets is red colour because of the presence of iron.

Now two different batches of marine biologists from the University of Hawaii and Oregon State University are exploring methods to feed the sea with iron. Not to boost its strength, but to save humanity from imminent fallout of global warming and climate change.

Dr Brian von Herzen of The Climate Foundation strongly believes that iron could play a major role in the blooming of phyto and zoo plankton. The blooming plankton will help in obsorption of a large quantity of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thus bringing down the over all temperatures on the blue planet.

The plankton are capable of utilising large quantities of CO2 through hotosynthesis. Aquatic plankton, particularly, phyto plankton, are known to obsorb many times more carbon dioxide than plants and trees that grow on the land. Just have a small bloom of phyto plankton through iron feeding and this simply equals the task of planting trees on scores of acres of land.

Oceanographers and marine biologists already know that iron will help in plankton bloom. The plankton works in several ways. After obsorbing the harmful CO2 from the atmosphere, it stores the gas in its cells. As the plankton dies it settles down in the ocean's bed, safely carrying the carbon dioxide. A bloom in plankton also means more aquatic life as many marine animals including fish feed on them.

The formula works well in oceanic areas where there's iron deficiency. Who said, oceans and seas are not anaemic, like we humans?

Idea No. 3
===========
Space Umbrellas to the rescue

We have heard our leaders urging us to come under one umbrella. Though it's not literally possible for all to come under one single umbrella, geo-engineers believe it could be possible, scientifically.

Yes, these geo-engineers, a new breed of scientists who want to tinker with the Nature to save mankind from global warming and the resultant climate change, have conceptualised what they call space umbrellas to bounce back the harmful radiation from the sun.

Scientists from the University of Arizona argue that space umbrellas will gradually reduce earth's temperature, and thus the harmful effects of global warming.

The university wants to launch a trillion tiny umbrellas or sunshields into the outer space. Each umbrella will be a small, light spacecraft, weighing about a gram. It carries a sunshade with a diametre of 30 cms. When such mini space umbrellas come together, they act as a sunscreen, filtering harmful radiation.

The area such a sunscreen each covers will extend to one lakh square km. These umbrellas will hover around the earth at a safe distance of 15 lakh km. The geo-engineers believe that such mini space umbrellas will reduce the sunlight's intensity by 1.8 per cent, sufficient to fight global warming.

The university group, which is working on the model, says it could happen by 2035.

Idea No. 4
============

Power from snow

With the threat of global warming looming large on the future of humanity, environmentalists feel that snow-fed rivers can be easily tackled to generate electricity.

Most of the hydroelectricity plants in the world are located on rivers fed by rains. Since monsoons have been playing truant of late, upsetting the calculations of planners, eco-experts suggest that it's high time policy- makers turned their attention to rivers fed by glaciers and snow.

While rivers fed on rains in their catchment are seasonal, those securing supplies from snow-covered mountains and glaciers are perennial. The runoff from snow-fed rivers is comparatively quite high. If these rivers are harvested for hydel power, the dependence on thermal energy will gradually come down. This will ultimately check rising
temperatures because of carbon emission from thermal energy plants.

As senior environmentalist R Ravi put its, India have a vast potential of energy generation from snow. All the rivers in the north India are fed by snow melt. If mini hydel plants are set up, the energy crisis in the country can easily be
overcome.

Also experts in global warming warn of snow and glacial melt if carbon emissions are not checked. The time is now apt to act. Before the snow melts under influence of global warming, we should set up hydel plants all along the snow-fed rivers.

Idea No. 5
============

Chimneys that cool the house

Ever heard of a chimney that's cool to touch. While conventional chimneys attached to our kitchen and industries are hot with pollutants loaded with carbondioxide and carbon monoxide and other gases, scientists in the United States have patented a
chimney that consumes internal energy and reduces temperatures, thus keeping the earth cool.

The latest chimney device for houses and industries is being touted as one of the simple tools to fight global warming.

This patented chimney will also induce water precipitation and produces electricity. It helps in climate control, production of fresh water and energy that's needed to
keep the house and industry cool. When set up in large numbers, such devices will
ultimately bring down the globaltemperatures.

It sucks in warm air from the earth surface and lifts it to a height. Later, it expels the air into the upper atmosphere. The lifting of warm air to higher altitude causes the atmosphere to shed some of its heat. This keeps the earth cool.

"When the air is expelled from the chimney, it is oversaturated with water vapors. Therefore, when it mixes with surrounding air and cools down, water naturally
precipitates causing precipitation in the surrounding area. The amount of that
precipitation can be substantial enough to sustain agriculture in areas such as deserts," claim the inventors

Friday, 10 July 2009

Satyam scam: CBI may not benefit from Rajus' lie-detection, brain-mapping tests

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, July 9: The Central Bureau of Investigation probing the Satyam
scam may have successfully secured the nod of court to conduct brain
mapping and lie-detection tests on company's former chairman B Ramalinga
Raju, his brother B Rama Raju and former chief financial officer Srinivas
Vadlamani, but the investigation agency is unlikely to elicit any new
information from them.

Even if it secures new information, it will not be admissible in a court of law.
This is because brain mapping and lie-detection or polygraph tests are yet to
be recognised as tools of evidence by Indian courts. Moreover, experts differ
on the scientific aspects and veracity of such forensic tests.

According to experts, these tests will help identify the precise individual, who has perpetrated crime. The tests will differentiate the perpetrator from those who have acquired information from the secondary sources. "Individuals, who have primary
encoded information, will show the characteristic brain responses, which are
indicative of the possession of first hand knowledge of the event," she said.

The Raju brothers will be subjected to both brain mapping and lie-detection
tests. The CBI employed all methods including the carrot and stick policy to
gather information from the accused. Since they turned out to be hard nuts to
crack, the CBI has banked all hopes on these tests.

Brain mapping test works on the principle that the brain stores information
and when subjected to forensic examination will reveal the "guilty
knowledge". It is also known as brain fingerprinting test. Sensors are
attached to the head of the accused, who is made to sit before a computer.
Certain scenes and sounds connected to the incident are played on the
computer screen.

The sensors monitor the electrical activity in the brain. They register a special
signal called P300 waves, which are generated only if the accused has any
link with the photographs or sounds shown or played to him. There will be
no investigation of the accused, as in the case of lie-detection test.

In polygraph or lie-detection test, the subject is put to a lot of questioning by
the investigating officer. The polygraph test involves recording of
physiological responses to the questions posed to the accused. Body
responses including change in blood pressure, breathing and body
temperature will determine whether the accused is telling the truth.

If the CBI fails to secure the desired information from the Satyam scamsters,
it may approach court for narco or truth serum tests, which work on the
premise that a person under the influence of intoxication will speak the truth.
Though courts in India grant permission for such tests, they do not rely on
the reports as concrete evidence. However, such tests have proved handy for
investigators to get more details, which otherwise would be difficult to
secure.

"The success of the polygraph test depends on the person who prepares the
questionnaire. If the questions are pertinent, then correct answers can be
generated," said Dr KPC Gandhi, founder-director of Truth Labs.


Brain mapping
-----------------

1. It works on the premise that the brain stores information and the accused leaks out "guilty knowledge" when subjected to the test.

2. The accused is asked to sit before a computer. Sensors are attached to his head. Then pictures and or sounds connected to the incident are screened or played.

3. The electric waves of the brain are mapped against each picture or sound byte.

4. Brain produces a special electric wave called P300 when pictures or sounds are shown or played to a person, if he has the first hand information. If the brain of the accused produces P300 waves, then he or she is said to be connected with the incident.

Lie-detection test
-------------------

1. A special equipment called the lie-detector or polygraph is used in this test.

2. Questions are asked to the accused. The answers are recorded.

3. While recording the answers the person's body responses like temperature, sweat and blood pressure are studied. The variation in these body parameters will tell the forensic team whether or not the person is involved.



Thursday, 9 July 2009

Satyam scam: Brain mapping, lie detection or polygraph not admissible in a court of law

2009
Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, July 9: The Central Bureau of Investigation probing the Satyam scam may have successfully secured the nod of court to conduct brain mapping and lie-detection tests on company's former chairman B Ramalinga Raju, his brother B Rama Raju and former chief financial officer Srinivas Vadlamani, but the investigation agency is unlikely to elicit any new information from them.

Even if it secures new information, it will not be admissible in a court of law. This is because brain mapping and lie-detection or polygraph tests are yet to be recognised as tools of evidence by Indian courts. Moreover, experts differ on the scientific aspects and veracity of such forensic tests.

According to Dr S Malini of Forensic Science Laboratory, Bengaluru, these tests will help identify the precise individual, who has perpetrated crime. The tests will differentiate the perpetrator from those who have acquired information from the secondary sources. "Individuals, who have primary encoded information, will show the characteristic brain responses, which are indicative of the possession of first hand knowledge of the event," she said.

The Raju brothers will be subjected to both brain mapping and lie-detection tests. The CBI employed all methods including the carrot and stick policy to gather information from the accused. Since they turned out to be hard nuts to crack, the CBI has banked all hopes on these tests.

Brain mapping test works on the principle that the brain stores information and when subjected to forensic examination will reveal the "guilty knowledge".  It is also known as brain fingerprinting test. Sensors are attached to the head of the accused, who is made to sit before a computer. Certain scenes and sounds connected to the incident are played on the computer screen.

The sensors monitor the electrical activity in the brain. They register a special signal called P300 waves, which are generated only if the accused has any link with the photographs or sounds shown or played to him. There will be no investigation of the accused, as in the case of lie-detection test.

In polygraph or lie-detection test, the subject is put to a lot of questioning by the investigating officer. The polygraph test involves recording of physiological responses to the questions posed to the accused. Body responses including change in blood pressure, breathing and body temperature will determine whether the accused is telling the truth.

If the CBI fails to secure the desired information from the Satyam scamsters, it may approach court for narco or truth serum tests, which work on the premise that a person under the influence of intoxication will speak the truth. Though courts in India grant permission for such tests, they do not rely on the reports as concrete evidence. However, such tests have proved handy for investigators to get more details, which otherwise would be difficult to secure.

"The success of the polygraph test depends on the person who prepares the questionnaire. If the questions are pertinent, then correct answers can be generated," said Dr KPC Gandhi, founder-director of Truth Labs.

Monday, 6 July 2009

South Indian men more prone to prostate cancers than their counterparts in the north

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: South Indian men are relatively more prone to prostate cancers than their counterparts in the north. This is because of their distinct ethnic identity and genetic make-up.
According to a study conducted by the city-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, the repeat of nucleotides - cytosine, adenine and guanine - on chromosomes has a direct bearing on the onset of prostate cancer in men belonging to certain ethnic communities. The androgen receptor gene possesses polymorphic cytosine, adenine and guanine or CAG tandem repeats and the repeat length has been inversely related to the risk of prostate cancer.
"The distinct ethnic variation in the CAG repeat length may be correlated to differences in prostate cancer risk in different populations, says Dr Thangaraj Kumarasamy of CCMB.
As many as 87 prostate cancer patients and 120 control subjects from South India were studied for the purpose. Prostate cancer, one of the most common malignancies in men, exhibits obscure aetiology. The growth of the prostate gland is dependent on circulating androgens and intracellular steroid signalling pathways. The effects of androgen are mediated through the androgen receptor. Moreover, androgen receptor gene transactivation is important for the normal growth and function of the prostate.
He said studies on CAG repeat variation in prostate cancer risk had been inconsistent. In India the one study conducted on the north Indian population showed significant association. However, there have been no studies on South Indian men to date. Since India is known for its unique population structure, having about 5000 endogamous populations, one would expect CAG repeat length variation among South Indians to be different.
"Therefore, we have attempted to analyse the association of CAG repeat number in the androgen receptor gene of the prostate cancer patients as well as control men from the same ethnic background, and to understand whether repeat length is associated with the age of onset and or cancer progression," he pointed out.

Regular sex prevents prostate cancer

By Syed Akbar

Want to get rid of prostate cancer, which is fast becoming a common health hazard in men? Just increase your sexual activity and you will be saved from prostrate cancer to a great extent. Each increase of three ejaculations per month across the man’s lifetime is associated with a 15 per cent decrease in the risk of prostate cancer.
According to Dr June Machover Reinisch of The Kinsey Institute and former professor in the departments of psychology and psychiatry at Indiana University, USA, it is a myth that excessive sexual activity will increase the risk of prostate cancer. The truth is that it will decrease the risk and keeps the prostate gland in good function.
Dr June Machover was in Hyderabad to present her research studies on sex and sexual practices. According to her, many physicians have believed that men who participate in high levels of sexual activity are at increased risk for prostate cancer. One suggested basis for this hypothesis is the possibility that increased sexual activity may be an indication of higher levels of androgen (male hormones) and therefore a higher risk of developing prostate cancer, which has been related to male hormone levels.
However, a study conducted by a group of researchers from the National Cancer Institute and John Hopkins and Harvard University revealed that increased sexual activity will in fact reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
The researchers selected as many as 29,342 men, between 46 and 81 years, and conducted a study on their sexual pattern for over eight long years. Only men who did not have a diagnosis of prostate cancer at the beginning of the eight years were included. So everybody was prostate cancer-free.
At the beginning of the study the men were questioned about the average number of ejaculations per month they had, between the ages of 20 and 29, then between 40 and 49, and then during the past year.
The study focused on the frequency of ejaculation, including sexual intercourse, nocturnal emissions, and masturbation. Every two years after the beginning of the study the men were asked, again, whether they had received a diagnosis of prostate cancer.
"Of the 29,342 men who began the study without a diagnosis of prostate cancer, by the end of eight years 1,449 cases had been diagnosed. That’s approximately 5 per cent of the men. Remember, they are older in age, so we expect them to start to get prostate cancer. With every decade that same percentage get prostate cancer, so we believe that 80 per cent of 80 year olds have prostate cancer, and 90 per cent of 90 year olds have prostate cancer, and 70 per cent of 70 year olds have prostate cancer," Dr June pointed out.
She said between ages 20 and 29 the men reported an average of 15 ejaculations a month. Between 40 and 49, 11 ejaculations a month was average, and between 50 and 59 9.5 per month. Men 60 and older reported an average of 5 ejaculations per month.
"Most categories of ejaculatory frequency were not related to the risk of prostate cancer. However, a lower risk was found in the group of men with the highest frequency of ejaculation. Each increase of three ejaculations per month across the man’s lifetime was associated with a 15 per cent decrease in the risk of prostate cancer. So the more ejaculations you had, the less likely you were to have prostate cancer, and every time you had three more as an average per month, you were 15 per cent less likely to have prostate cancer," she said.

Nikah rules: Consent of father must for girl's marriage, say Islamic scholars

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Miya bibi razi to kya karega qazi, goes a famous Urdu saying. But a group of Muslim religious scholars in Hyderabad feels that Nikah will become valid only if the legal guardian of the bride gives his nod. The miya (groom) and the bibi (bride) may be willing to become man and wife but unless the "wali" (legal guardian) says "yes" in the presence of the Qazi, the Nikah will not be solemnised.
A major religious controversy is now raging in the Muslim community in Hyderabad after a noted preacher and authority on comparative religion married a girl without the consent of the latter's father. A fatwa has been issued stating that the Nikah is "batil" (illegal) and the couple has committed "zina" (adultery or fornication). Pamphlets are published highlighting the fatwa and distributed in Muslim localities. The issue got complicated with the intervention of eminent religious body Tameer-e-Millat into the controversy.
The fatwa was obtained by the parents of the girl from the Ahle Hadis Ulema Board, Hyderabad, and Islamic Research and Guidance Centre, Chennai. According to the religious edict (fatwa), a girl cannot marry a boy without obtaining the consent of her father or legal guardian. Islamic scholars Safi Ahmad of the Ulema Board and Shaik Anees-ur-Rahman of the IRGC based their comments on the sayings (hadith) of the Holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad. They quoted the hadith from eminent books of prophet's traditions, Sahih Muslim and Abu Dawud.
Ulema, however, are divided on the issue. Those adhering to the Shafai, Maliki, Hanbali and Salafi schools of thought support the view that father's consent is needed for the Nikah to become valid. Scholars of Hanafi sect feel that the Nikah will be legally valid even if the girl does not take the consent of her father or legal guardian.
Says Safi Ahmad, who is also vice-president of Jamaat Ahle Hadis, Andhra Pradesh unit, "we feel that the parents' consent is needed if the girl is a "Bakira" (marrying for the first time). In the case of "Sayyiba" (second marriage), the girl need not obtain the consent of her legal guardian".
Senior Islamic priest Abdur Rahim Khuram says since the scholar of comparative religions claims that he follows the Salafi school of Islamic jurisprudence, he should strictly adhere to it. "He has earlier married a girl without the consent of her father. He had to leave the girl after her parents took up the issue with religious leaders. This is the second time that he has married a girl without parents' nod," Khuram adds.
However, hanafi scholar Syed Shujath Hussain is of the view that a mature girl has the choice to marry or not to marry. "She can marry whomsoever she wishes - no one can force her to marry a particular person. If she marries a person on her own, the nikâh will be valid irrespective of whether the wali is informed or not, and irrespective of whether the wali gives his consent or not. In all cases the nikâh will be valid," he points out.
However, his statement comes with a rider. Parents' consent is not necessary if the social, educational and economic status of the boy is equal to that of hers. "If she does not marry a person who is of the same social standing as her, and instead, marries a person who is of a lower standing than her family, and her wali is not happy about this marriage, then the fatwâ in this case is that the nikâh will not be valid," he clarifies.
According to Moulana Muhammad Kareem, in Shafi'i and Hanbali Madhhabs the wali has to be present during the nikah; otherwise, the nikah will not be sahih. A woman cannot be a wali. In Hanafi Madhhab, a woman can get married without a wali and can appoint someone her deputy, yet if a woman marries someone who is not her kufw (status), her wali can interfere and stop the marriage. In Maliki Madhhab, if a woman is one of the notables of the town and is rich, then her wali has to be present at the nikah.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Ill effects of liquid paraffin


By Syed Akbar

Medicinal liquid paraffin along with white soft paraffin and wool alcohol are used as an eye ointment to lubricate the outer surface of the eye to treat dry conditions. There are no known harmful effects when this medicine is used by pregnant or breast feeding mothers.

Ashok T Jaisinghani, nutritionist - Paraffin is known for causing cancer if taken internally. Paraffin is a petroleum product, chemically called petrolatum.

Liquid paraffin or mineral oil is a transparent, colourless, odourless, or almost odourless, oily liquid composed of saturated hydrocarbons obtained from petroleum. Petroleum was used as a medicine at least 400 years before Christ. The earliest internal use of refined petroleum appears to date back to 1872, when Robert A. Chesebrough was granted a patent for the manufacture of "a new and useful product from petroleum".

The use of liquid paraffin gained popularity, after Sir W. Arbuthnot Lane, Chief Surgeon of Guy's Hospital in 1913, recommended its use as a treatment for intestinal stasis and chronic constipation. The popularity of liquid paraffin as a treatment for constipation and encopresis stems primarily from its tolerability and ease of titration. Although conversion of mineral oil to hydroxyl fatty acids induces an osmotic effect.

========================
Potential Health Effects
========================

Eye: Vapours may cause eye irritation.

Skin: Prolonged and/or repeated contact may cause irritation and/or dermatitis

Ingestion: May cause gastrointestinal irritation with nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Aspiration of material into the lungs may cause chemical pneumonitis, which may be fatal

Inhalation: May cause respiratory tract irritation

Chronic: Prolonged inhalation may cause respiratory tract inflammation and lung damage. Prolonged or repeated skin contact may cause dermatitis. May cause cancer according to animal studies.

Liquid Paraffin acts by softening and lubricating the faeces. The faeces can then move more easily through the bowel. By doing this it relieves constipation and reduces the pain of some conditions such as piles (haemorrhoids).

Flare-ups of eczema may be triggered, or complicated, by overgrowth of Staphylococcusaureus on the skin

A short course of a suitable oral antibiotic (e.g. flucloxacillin) may be appropriate in patients with physical signs of infection. However, topical antiseptics have also been suggested as a prophylactic measure. Three combination products containing an antiseptic and emollient are currently available in the UK two of which are bath emollients.

Human health and pollution: How safe is the food we eat

By Syed Akbar

How safe is the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe?
Research studies show that with rapid urbanisation and consequent increase in pollution levels, the "burden of disease" has increased manifold during the last one decade.
Incidence of autism in children due to pollution increased 10 fold while male birth defects went up by two times with sperm count decreasing by one per cent every year. The burden of asthma in children shot up by 200 per cent even as acute lymphocytic leukaemia (cancer of white blood cells) recorded a 62 per cent increase. Incidence of childhood brain cancer increased by 30 per cent. Preterm births recorded 23 per cent increase while infertility in couples went up by five to 10 per cent. Pollution is also the major factor in three to five per cent of birth defects in India.
The statistics are alarming. But more shocking are research reports that reveal that vegetables, fruits, cereals and even fish tend to accumulate heavy metals and dangerous chemicals from the soil. This simply means we consume a plethora of harmful chemicals and metals ranging from phthalate esters to mercury whenever we eat fruits or vegetables. These dangerous elements continue to accumulate in our bodies through food, water and air and cause a "synergetic effect", the overall result of which is disastrous to our health. The chemical accumulation in the food chain is because of water pollution and the increasing tendency to use sewage (treated or untreated) for horticulture.
The Environmental Working Group of the United States, in a chemical analysis of placental blood of 10 new born babies, found that on an average 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in the umbilical cord. The total number of chemicals that made their way into the blood stream of the babies through their mothers is a whopping 287.
Of the 287 chemicals detected in umbilical cord blood, as many as 180 cause cancer, 217 are poisonous to the brain and nervous system and 208 cause birth defects.
With pollution eating into the health, the adult mortality rate (probability of dying per 1,000 population between 15 and 60 years of age) for Indians by the World Health Organisation is as high as 275 for men and 202 for women. This is as against 91 and 48 respectively for Israel and 198 and 136 respectively for Lebanon despite these two countries witnessing large-scale deaths in violence. If put in simple words, pollution has emerged a major killing factor as compared with deaths in insurgency or terrorism.
According to a National Environment and Health Action Plan report for India by the World Health Organisation, about 70 to 80 per cent of water borne diseases are caused due to contamination of surface and ground water due to discharge of untreated/partially treated sewage and industrial effluents into the water bodies.
The University of Hyderabad which conducted a study on horticultural crops grown on the polluted riverbed of Musi found "bioaccumulation" in a number of leafy vegetables, vegetables and fruits including pomegranates. Irrigation of agricultural fields with treated/ untreated effluent containing heavy metals such as chromium, lead, mercury or arsenic will also lead to absorption of harmful elements into plant bodies through roots.
Research by Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University revealed pesticide residue in vegetables and fruits. Though most of the pesticide goes off with the washing, still minute portions remain and this minute quantity goes on accumulating in the body causing serious health problems including cancer.
Another WHO report focusing on Southeast Asia region points out that over 40 per cent of the global burden of diseases from environmental factors falls upon children below five years of age. More than five million children die each year from environmental-related diseases.
According to the report, in India each year over three million people die prematurely from water-related diseases and another two million succumb to indoor air pollution from smoky stoves. Infants and young children top the list followed by women from rural households. One million die from urban air pollution.
Increased industrialisation and urbanisation has resulted in hundreds of thousands of chemicals being released into the atmosphere every day. What worries the health experts is that the health hazards of only a very few of these chemicals are known. Most commonly used chemicals like organochlorines can cause grave harm to the unborn or new-born child. In some cases the foetus is also affected.
Studies by Hyderabad-based National Institute of Nutrition have shown that the milk of Indian mothers contains among the highest amount of the insecticide HCH (Hexachlorocyclohexanes) anywhere in the world. Another NIN report shows that excessive administration of veterinary medicines to cattle is leading to pharmaceutical residues in the cattle milk. No wonder then that you take a bout of veterinary medical residues along with your morning tea or coffee. Moreover, increased absorption and storage of toxins in the growing organs of children and adolescents increase the chance for development of serious or life threatening disease throughout life.
The chemicals and metals that have made their way into our bodies through either the food chain or vehicular pollution include mercury (accumulates in seafood and harms brain development); Polyaromatic hydrocarbons (from burning petrol or garbage and causes cancer); Polybrominated dibenzodioxins and furans (plastic production and incineration, harms hormone system); Perfluorinated chemicals (from products like Teflon and food wrap coatings, birth defects and cancer); Polychlorinated dibenzodioxins and furans (from PVC production, causes cancer); Organochlorine pesticides (DDT and other pesticides, reproductive defects);
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (furniture foam, computers, and televisions, affects thyroid); Polychlorinated Naphthalene (Wood preservatives and varnishes, causes liver and kidney damage); and Polychlorinated biphenyls (Industrial insulators, nervous system problems).

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The Ill Effects
--------

At risk are our reproductive, immune and digestive systems. Harmful effects of pollution, particularly the air pollution (both indoor and outdoor), on human body have been well established by a series of studies in Hyderabad conducted by the National Institute of Nutrition, the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, the Institute of Genetics and Hospital for Genetic Diseases (Osmania University), Owaisi Hospital and Research Centre and Mahavir Hospital among others.
Atmospheric pollution can damage male and female reproduction, immune system, hearing, cardiovascular (heart) system and blood, liver, skin, lungs, brain and nerves, kidneys, stomach and intestines, hormonal system and vision and cause cancer and birth defects.
"Ozone layer depletion is occurring because of pollution, which is leading to UV light reaching earth", says dermatologist Dr Anup Lahiry adding that "this in turn is leading to sensitivity to light, skin allergies and ageing of the skin. Pollution is also making skin more oily and acme prone".
A study on the harmful effects of vehicular pollution on children by the National Institute of Nutrition showed that nearly one-third of those tested in Hyderabad had lead levels of 15 micrograms per decilitre or more in their blood. This is as against the upper permissible limit of 10 microgram per decilitre.
The study revealed that lead toxicity not only inhibits cognitive development and loss of intelligence but also causes anaemia and progressive damage to organs. Chronic low level exposure to lead damages organ system including brain, nervous system, haemoglobin synthesis and renal functions.
Automobile emissions enter lungs directly and from there into the blood stream. In some cases the pollutants enter bone marrow and remain there for as long as six years. The damage is gradual but irreversible.
Says consultant palmonologist Dr S Mallikarjun Rao, "industrial pollution and mainly vehicular pollution is leading to high levels of air pollution. The air has high levels of sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, suspended particular matter and other chemicals causing allergic reactions, recurrent cold, bronchitis, precipitate asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancers etc. It also leads to increase in mental stress levels. There is increase in the incidence of such diseases in cities like Hyderabad in the recent past".
Heavy metal contaminants like mercury retard normal brain development and lead to permanent impairment. Vinyl teethers and plastic toys commonly sold in the Indian markets contain chemicals such as DEHP (Di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate), that leach and hamper the development of the child's reproductive system.
A survey by UNICEF in different parts of the country reveals that 19.3 per cent of under five children suffer from acute respiratory infections. According to WHO, indoor air pollution from solid fuels ranks fourth among risks to human health in developing countries and ranks higher still in India (third), just below malnutrition and lack of safe sanitation and drinking water. As many as 34,000 women die every year in the country due to chronic obstructive disorders.
No wonder then that the number of pollution related patients has increased in cities like Hyderabad, New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Chennai. "Lots of patients with respiratory allergies from simple running nose to severe asthmas are reporting of late due to air pollution. Constant exposure to noise due to vehicular traffic and blaring sounds from loud speakers can lead to hearing loss at an early age. Such noise can also lead to irritation. Prevention and protection is the best option," suggests senior ENT surgeon Dr Sajeet Kumar.
With the discovery of vaccines infectious diseases like polio, smallpox, diphtheria and rheumatic fever have declined. Surprisingly pollution-related health problems including asthma, autism, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders, childhood brain cancer and acute lymphocytic leukaemia have increased in the recent past.

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Infertility
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Pollution and infertility. May sound strange. But studies by the Hyderabad-based Centre for Infertility Management, Hetero Research Foundation, Owaisi Hospital and Research Centre show that chemical pollutants like phthalate esters are causing endometriosis in women. What is worrying is that women are also passing on infertility to their sons, besides suffering themselves from the painful endometriosis.
"Women with endometriosis showed significantly higher concentrations of Di-n-Butyl Phthalate, Butyl Benzyl Phthalate, Di-n-Octy phthalate and diethyl Hexyl phthalate," points out fertility expert Dr Roya Rozati concluding that phthalate esters are instrumental in the aetiology of endometriosis. As many as 49 infertile women were studied for the purpose in Hyderabad.
Carbon monoxide from burning of fossil fuels combines with haemoglobin in the blood to form carboxyhemoglobin reducing the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood. This poisonous gas also contributes to adverse pregnancy outcomes, including miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight, and early infant mortality.
"Environmental pollution is directly related to malfunction of testes leading to male infertility. It is also related to failures in treatment in reproductive units (test tube baby centres). It can also cause ovarian dysfunction, resulting in female infertility," warns Dr Meera Rajagopal a fertility specialist at Akshaya Fertility Centre.
Pollution is also stated to be the cause of undescended testis in infants. This is a common birth defect with two to five per cent of babies born having undescended testis. But with increasing levels of pollution, the percentage of children suffering from the problem has increased greatly even in developed countries like the USA. Pollution prevents testicles from completely descending into the scrotum during pregnancy. Children born with this defect are at higher risk for testicular cancer and breast cancer.
Five to 10 per cent of couples suffer from infertility-related problems. About 50 per cent of pregnancies end in abortions and three to five per cent of babies are born with defects.
Health experts have found significant regional differences in sperm count that cannot be explained by differences in genetic factors. Pollution is also related to increasing incidence of hypospadias (deformed penis). Average sperm counts in industrialised countries appear to be declining at a rate of about one percent each year.

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Cancers
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Incidence of cancers particularly of lung, breast, uterus, testes, prostate and gastrointestinal tract is on the increase. Exposure to chemicals like dioxin during foetal development has been found to cause endocrine-related cancers like breast and uterine cancers in women. Dioxin in men even in minute quantities (0.02 to 10 parts per billion) will change the testosterone levels and cause diabetes and also changes the sex ratio of children i.e. a man with this much little quantity of dioxine in the blood will father twice as many girls as boys.
"Environmental pollution has several deleterious effects on diseases of kidney and urinary bladder. Some specific agents when exposed for a long time can also cause bladder cancer. Water pollution in relation to kidney stones is under investigation," says senior urologist Dr V Raja Gopal.
Childhood cancer cases increased by 27.1 per cent while brain and nervous systems cancers increased by 56.5 per cent. The incidence of testicular cancer also went up to 66 per cent. The effect of pollution on cancers can be gauged from the fact that only 10 per cent of cancers are related to genetic factors and the rest to environment pollution.
Pollution is being projected as a major factor for increase in breast cancer. A report by US Environmental Protection Agency points out that among girls born today, one in seven is expected to get breast cancer and one in 30 is expected to die from it. Among those 65 and younger, breast cancer incidence rose 1.2 per cent per year, corresponding to a doubling every two generations (58 years).
Consultant dietician Sunita Sapur says the gastrointestinal tract may get affected due to adulterated food. "The microvilli in the GI tract which produce enzymes for digestion also get affected which leads to digestive disorders and mal-absorption of essential nutrients. To remove toxic substances certain organs like liver, kidneys have to stretch their performance. Adulterated food can also cause cancers of the stomach, liver damage and kidney problems," she adds.
An EPA reports says the incidence of testicular cancer is doubling about every one and a half generations or 39 years. Testicular cancer is now the most common cancer in men in the age group of 15 to 35 years. Prostate cancer has emerged as the most common cancer among men and the second most lethal among all cancers.
"Tobacco and smoke cause environmental pollution and lead to lung cancers, laryngeal cancers, oesophageal cancers etc.," says medical oncologist Dr SVVS Prasad. Coloured agents in food are suspected to lead to cancers. Pickled foods containing nitrites and nitrates can cause stomach cancers. Soft foods without fibre can cause colon cancers. Pollution because of pesticides can cause cancers like non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. "Environmental pollution with radiation like radon gas emitted from concrete buildings can lead to cancers like leukaemia. Asbestos pollution can cause lung cancers. Radiation from X rays and atomic energy plants can also cause cancers," he observes.

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The Pollutants
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A number of environmental chemicals are potentially ototoxic or capable of damaging hearing or equilibrium. They include trichloroethylene used in household spot removers, rug cleaning solutions, paints, waxes, pesticides, adhesives and lubricants.
Solvents with neurotoxicity like Xylene used in paints, varnishes and thinners, can affect hearing by injuring the brain. Styrene, used in plastics, resins, synthetic rubber and insulation, disrupts the ability of the brain to process speech and other complex sound. Hexane, used in shoe factories, damages the hearing nerve pathways in the brain.
Carbon disulphide, an insecticide, causes hearing loss. Another chemical toluene can damage the hearing whether inhaled or absorbed by contact with the liquid form. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause injury to the delicate nervous system.
Butyl nitrate, used in room fresheners, causes loss of hearing.
Mercury poisoning causes unsteady walking, weakness, visual and sensory disturbances. Organic tin compounds used in the manufacture of polyurethane foam, silicone rubber and polyvinyl chloride causes severe health problems.
An exposure to methyl mercury to foetus will cause measurable damage to the functioning of the brain. A study by ZM Patel and RA Adhia of the Genetic Research Centre, National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health, Mumbai, on 17653 new-born babies revealed 294 (1.6 per cent) had major malformations and 1400 (7.92 per cent had minor malformations, 328 (1.8 per cent) were stillbirths. Polygenic traits accounted for 45.1 per cent while chromosomal aetiology was found in four per cent. A genetic basis was found in 65.4 per cent of cases.

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What To Do
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There is no shortcut route to escape from the harmful effects of pollutants and chemicals that have made their way into our food chain. The US Environmental Protection Agency suggests that people should stay indoors as much as they can during days when pollution levels are high.
"Many pollutants have lower levels indoors than outdoors. If you must go outside, limit outside activity to the early morning hours or wait until after sunset. This is important in high ozone conditions because sunshine increases ozone levels," an EPA report points out.
Other steps suggested by EPA are: Don't exercise or exert yourself outdoors when air-quality reports indicate unhealthy conditions. The faster you breathe, the more pollution you take into your lungs. However, if you live or work close to a known pollution source, or if you have a chronic heart or lung problem, talk with your doctor about other ways to protect yourself from air pollution.
Though Ayurvedic doctors prescribe Panchakarma therapy to "detoxify" the body, unfortunately real and effective systems that detoxify and excrete industrial chemicals are not available. Ayurvedic doctors claim that panchakarma will eliminate environmentally toxic substances like polycholorinated biphenyl and pesticides through natural purification methods.
To protect from the pollution of radiation, one should wear good quality sunglasses. "Pollution leads to increase in the incidence of dry eye syndrome, which is a chronic problem in itself. One should wear glasses to reduce the problem," says Dr Shikha Fogla, consultant ophthalmologist.

Islam in Great Britain through the lens of Peter Sanders


By Syed Akbar
For those who equate Muslims with terrorism, the photo exhibition by internationally renowned photographer Peter Sanders is an eye opener.
Peter Sanders the other day took Hyderabadis on a journey through the Great Britain giving a vivid photographic description of the lifestyle of Muslims living in the West.
As they say a picture speaks a thousand words, the exclusive Sanders photographs at "The Art of Integration Exhibition: Islam in Britain's Green and Pleasant Lands" "speak" on behalf of 1.6 million British Muslims loud and clear that "Muslims are not terrorists and British Muslims are as much British as others living in Britain".
Peter Sanders, who has carved out a niche for himself in the Islamic world with his classic photographs on Muslim lifestyles and monuments around the globe, points out that there's no clash of civilisations and there's no war between the West and Muslims. And his photographs proved his point. The photographs are extremely and extraordinarily beautiful and many Hyderabadis had for the first time gone through a first hand assessment of Muslims and Islam in the UK.
"For many years I wanted to photograph Islam in the UK, but to be honest, I was not inspired by what I saw. Then I began to meet second and third generation British Muslims, many of them young, professional and artistic, young people who did not have the fears and concerns of previous generations. Within them was a confidence that to be British and Muslim was not a problem," observes Peter Sanders.
Every photograph made it clear that terrorism does not equate to Islam or any other faith or human value.
"Key Islamic influencers need to counter the extremists' narrative. Mainstream message must be made more understandable, available and attractive to meet the challenge of delegitimising extremism and terror. Terrorists' malignant misinterpretations of Islam are rejected by Muslims throughout the UK and abroad," says Fazil Hussain Parvez, senior journalist.
A notable feature of the exhibition is that the photographs challenged a number of misconceptions, for instance, about the tendencies of some communities not to integrate into their adopted homeland.
Peter Sanders began his career in the mid-1960s covering London's seminal rock and roll scene, capturing now legendary music icons in a collection that is considered a classic by collectors. Towards the end of the 1970s, Sanders' attention turned inward which set him on a spiritual search that took him to India and led him in the end to the Muslim world.
"My photography has always been an extension of my life," says Sanders, who converted to Islam before his journey to Mecca in early 1970s. "Photography is a wonderful process - a gift from God - that has allowed me to learn so much about myself and the world around me. It's like chasing a moment, trying to capture a beautiful bird in flight."
The photographs speak about the Muslim roots in British soil depicting archaeological finds that trace back to over 1000 years. The discovery of a ninth century brooch bearing the "Basamala" an Islamic inscription meaning "In the name of God - the most Merciful, the most Beneficent", in south-east Ireland and of eighth century coins from the reign of King Offa stamped with the Muslim declaration of faith, offer glimpses of this little know Muslim history of Britain.
Peter Sanders then takes the visitors through the first mosque in the UK (December 25, 1889), British Muslim personalities including pop singer-turned charity activist Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam), scholar Martin Lings (Abu Bakr Siraj al-Din) and fashion designer Alia Khan, Muslim charities before winding up with Islamic finance institutions and Islamia schools.

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