Andhra Pradesh Health Department officials investigating the mystery illness that has affected more than 550 people in Eluru have said that excessive use of bleaching powder and chlorine, as part of Covid-19 sanitation measures, may have caused the water contamination that made people take ill.
“Health experts suspect that excessive use of bleaching powder and chlorine in sanitation programmes as part of Covid-19 prevention measures may be the cause of water contamination. This is just one of the causes we are exploring,” Andhra Pradesh Health Minister A Krishna Srinivas told The Indian Express.
A multi-disciplinary team of experts from the World Health Organisation, AIIMS (New Delhi), National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology, and Indian Institute of Chemical Technology told the AP government that it should focus on investigating the source of water contamination.
“The presence of lead and nickel in patients’ bodies might have caused the illness, which could be due to pesticides mixed up with the water supply in Eluru,” a statement from the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Office stated.
Doctors and experts from AIIMS, New Delhi, had said that primary investigations revealed that lead and nickel content appeared to be high in the blood of those who were ill. “Also, it was found that there was a significant drop in the level of lead in patients’ bodies after 24 hours of becoming sick. The dumping of broken batteries in water sources may also have led to the current situation,” an official said.
Experts from AIIMS, Mangalagiri, in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, who took the first blood samples of affected persons, said pesticides might have contaminated drinking water sources.
An expert team from National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, said they have examined the food, water, milk, urine and blood samples from the families of the sick and also taken samples of vegetables and essentials from the market. “We are conducting comprehensive tests. So far, there are no signs of danger. We shall submit a report on water, food, milk, urine and blood samples,” Dr J J Babu, who is heading the NIN team, said.
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