Mumbais Tata Memorial Centre has begun work to set up a community-based cancer registry and carry out health surveys to document the precise occurrence of cancer,birth defects and other illnesses around Indias atomic power plants.
The move to study the incidence of the disease comes in the wake of increased apprehension among residents of areas close to nuclear power installations.
It is expected to lead to the creation of a large database that will allow continuous monitoring,and help detect any patterns in the occurrence of cancer and other illnesses around the nuclear plants. The first firm results are expected in around 18 months,a government official involved in the exercise said.
The Tata Memorial study will produce Indias first authoritative document on raditation-linked health incidents. Much of the information collected so far has come from isolated studies,such as a recent survey by ASPIRE (A Society for Primary Health Care Intervention,Research and Education) conducted among 22,345 people in 22 villages within an 8-km radius of the nuclear plant in Kalpakkam,Tamil Nadu.
The provisional report of the survey conducted by a health screening questionnaire and a clinical examination has indicated the incidence of cancer in these villages to be 0.21 per cent,as against the national average of 2 per cent to 3 per cent. While the data suggests no evidence for increased incidence of cancer around Kalpakkam,the government is keen on a comprehensive report covering all nuclear installations nationwide.
The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) has long maintained that levels of radiation around nuclear power plants are only negligibly higher than background radiation,and produce no major ill effects. Epidemiological surveys have found no rise in cancer morbidity,birth defects or other ailments among plant employees,compared to residents of areas far from plants.
The Tata Memorial study is,however,expected to be the most comprehensive of all such exercises initiated so far,and comes at a time when the government is looking to ramp up nuclear power capacity by setting up at least half a dozen atomic parks across the country.