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Ahead of the 35th anniversary of the Bhopal gas tragedy, organizations representing survivors have accused the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) of suppressing a crucial study depicting comparatively higher rate of birth defects in babies of mothers exposed to the methyl isocyanate gas that killed thousands and maimed lakhs in December 1984.
“The documents they obtained from NIREH (National Institute for Research on Environmental Health) show that its parent organization ICMR decided to not publish the results of a study that found that birth defects in babies of gas-exposed mothers was several times higher compared to those of non-exposed mothers.
According to the documents, Dr Ruma Galgalekar, the principal investigator of the study conducted by NIREH, found that 9 per cent of the 1,048 babies born to gas-exposed mothers reported congenital malformations (birth defects), while in 1,247 babies born to unexposed mothers, only 1.3 per cent had congenital malformations. The study, costing little over INR 48 lakh, was carried out from January 2016 to June 2017 following approval by three successive meetings of the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) of the ICMR from December 2014 to January 2017.
As per the minutes of the expert group’s meeting on April 4, 2018, (obtained through RTI) the group strongly recommended that, "this data, due to its inherent flaws, should not be put in public domain and shared at any platforms.” According to the four experts, the “inherent flaws” of the study were “various methodological issues, problems of invalidated data and outcome assessment bias”.
At the eighth SAC meeting in October 2018, the members agreed that “as the said project had flaws… the results are erroneous and thus should not be brought in the public domain”.
Our thoughts: Even today the victims can be followed up to know the scientific truth.
Dr KK Aggarwal
Padma Shri Awardee
President Confederation of Medical Associations in Asia and Oceania (CMAAO)
Group Editor-in-Chief IJCP Publications
President Heart Care Foundation of India
Past National President IMA