In 2002, National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), Ahmedabad published a study titled, “Report of the investigations of unusual illnesses allegedly produced by Endosulfan exposure in Padre Village of Kasargod district (N. Kerala)”. It was followed by another study made by the NIOH titled, “Effect of Endosulfan on Male Reproductive Development.” Both of these studies have become available on internet for public access. During thorough readings of these reports, scientists and experts have noted that the studies have several serious scientific errors relating to the residue analysis of Endosulfan.
Experts have found that the Instrument Detection Limit (IDL) of Gas Chromatography (GC), which is used for chemical residue analyses in these reports, was 1 part per billion (1 ppb) for Endosulfan. However, the studies carry residue finding as low as 0.4 ppb and 0.5 ppb, which fall much below the minimum detection level of the instrument used. This is scientifically indemonstrable. There were many more representative omissions and flaws noted in these studies by experts.
Subsequently, several requests were made by experts to the NIOH to provide ‘raw data’ for review and reprocessing to uncover any laboratory fraud made in this case. But, all these requests, made under the Right to Information Act of India, fell on deaf ears. For many years, NIOH has made various excuses for hiding these details but finally in 2010, with the interference of the Central Information Commission, provided 1,700 pages of raw data to the experts. However, large amount of information has been masked by the NIOH in the shared raw data. Now the question arises that if NIOH is confident of its work, why has this data been masked? Such acts of NIOH provide much insight and indicate that the data and analysis of the studies, and the resulting findings were based on inaccurate readings.
These studies have been cited at various national and international forums and referred to by various Indian and global authorities to propose a ban on Endosulfan. When found fundamentally flawed and incorrect, they should have created uproar across the world. Questions should be raised on the credibility of the NIOH. As a government body, NIOH is responsible to validate reports before publishing them. However, its attempts to discourage wide review of the raw data are astonishing.
On November 15, 2010 a group around 10,000 in number and comprising workers’ families and farmers, have presented a memorandum to the District Collector of Bhavnagar, requesting immediate withdrawal of the NIOH report on the grounds discussed above. The Indian Chemical Council has also written to the Prime Minister of India, requesting a call for a comprehensive scientific audit of the NIOH reports and to punish those who are guilty of committing laboratory frauds.
On account of various such requests, a panel has been formed to study the impact of Endosulfan in Kerala. The expert panel, which includes representatives from the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment, will be directly administered by the Health Department. The Central Government is expected to reference the findings of this expert panel before taking its decisions on the Endosulfan issue.