Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Nalgonda district turning into arid from semi-arid region

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 16: Here's one more bad news for Nalgonda. After
fluoride and uranium contamination of ground water, Nalgonda district
is fast turning into a dry land. Scientists at the city-based International
Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics have found that
Nalgonda district has turned arid from a semi-arid region.

After digging into climate data of four decades and studying the failure
of crops, Icrisat scientists have noticed that the number of "growing
cycle" particularly for the rabi season has come down by 15 days. This
means no crop of duration more than 100 days will be able to survive
during the rabi in the district. If a crop is of 115 days duration either the
yield will fall or the crop fails.

Alarmed at the change in climate pattern in Nalgonda, the Indian
Council of Agricultural Research has decided to take up a full-fledged
study in 100 select districts all over the country. Scientists of ICRISAT
and ICAR attribute the problem in Nalgonda district to climate change.

"The problem is very serious," Icrisat director-general Dr William D
Dar said while describing the climate change pattern in Nalgonda
district. "The impact is more during the rabi season," he added.

Icrisat principal scientist Dr Suhas P Wani said climate and agricultural
data from 1972 onwards revealed that there's a gradual progression
from semi-arid climate to arid climate in Nalgonda. "Without realising
the change in the climate pattern, farmers continue with old agricultural
practices. The crop failed in three of the last five years causing heavy
loss to farmers," Dr Suhas said adding that there's a drastic impact on
farming. Such a phenomenon has not been observed in neighbouring

Another district, he said that could be compared with Nalgonda is
Parbani in Maharashtra. "Unless remedial measures are not taken
farmers may not be able to grow sorghum in the district," he warned.

ICAR deputy director-general Dr AK Singh said data on 100
vulnerable districts in the country would be ready by early 2012.

Icrisat on Tuesday held a roundtable meeting on climate change and
rain-fed farming systems. Scientists and private players attending the
roundtable noted that in the last 60 years Asia has been witnessing
"unusual events". Analysis of historical weather data in the continent
shows there have been high intensity rains with the number of rainy
days coming down and temperatures going up.

The experts, however said they had been geared up with appropriate
technologies to meet the challenge of climate change. Varieties
resistant to drought and high temperature have been developed and
farmers need to adopt them to improve productivity despite change in
climate pattern.

India upgrades its nuclear reactors for tsunami, earthquake threats

Syed Akbar
Indian nuclear reactors will get a facility that automatically shuts them down in case of a devastating earthquake, as part of the ongoing upgrade of safety features that is being implemented after the nuclear disaster in Japan.
The other safety features include options for power sources for cooling the plant including harnessing solar power and use of nitrogen gas from liquid nitrogen tanks to control pressure. There will also be shore protection structures to protect nuclear power plants from tsunamis.
The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) is reinforcing safety features of nuclear reactors during natural calamities like earthquakes and tsunamis. The timeframe for the upgradation is about one year.
This follows the recommendations of the task forces set up by the NPCIL. Though the interim reports were submitted in April, the final reports are yet to be readied. The reports were sought after the damage to the Fukushima reactors inJapan after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March.
The NPCIL says the Indian scenario is different from that of Japan. The location of tsunamigenic faults in the Indian context and seismic map shows that there will not be simultaneous occurrence of earthquake and tsunami.
“The safety features of nuclear power plants in the country are designed for earthquake with a return period of 10,000 years. The effects of earthquake, cyclone, storm surge and tsunami have been considered while designing the plants. But in view of the task force recommendations, safety measures are being further upgraded,” said the NPCIL report on safety.
Officials have designed computer simulations to measure the height of sea waves if an earthquake of 9 magnitude strikes at the Makran or Sumatra faults. If an earthquake hits Makran, it may create a tsunami on the west coast. If it occurs in the Sumatra region — like the one in December 2006 —the east coast is vulnerable.
The nuclear power plants located on the coast are linked to the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services in Hyderabad for prompt tsunami alerts.
For instance, the Madras Atomic Power Plant located on the east coast has a tsunami alert system. Even if an earthquake of 9.2 magnitude in the Sumatra region triggers a tsunami, it will take at least three hours to reach the nuclear plant. With the Incois setting off an alert within a few seconds, officials will have sufficient time to attend to the emergency.

Indians growing taller, but slower

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 18: Indians are growing taller at a much slower pace
than people in European countries. According to city scientists, men in
India have turned taller by 0.50 cm and women by 0.22 cm in the last
10 years. This is in contrast to the decadal secular increase in height in
Europe by one centimetre for men and 0.70 cm for women.

A research study by the clinical division of the city-based National
Institute of Nutrition has revealed that the average height of adult men
and women in the country is 165 cm and 152 cm respectively. The NIN
team comprising Dr Raja Sriswan Mamidi, Dr Bharati Kulkarni and Dr
Abhishek Singh has gone through the anthropometric data of around
70,000 men and about 1.19 lakh women in the age group of 20 to 49
years to arrive at the finding.

Given the fact that India has made impressive progress on the
economic and health front, the average increase in height of Indians
should have been much more. "The secular increase in height has been
modest in India in spite of impressive economic growth," the scientists

An interesting finding by the NIN team was that people who consumed
milk daily had put in more height. The team also found some difference
in the height of people living in different States and linked the regional
differences to the varying quantum of milk consumed.

The scientists noted that milk consumption helped both men and
women in gaining height, though the increase in height was a littler
more in men. This shows that dietary intake also influences the overall
increase in the height of both men and women.

The NIN's is the first study on adult height and associated secular
trends in relation to socio-economic factors based on a nationally
representative sample.

Virus load: New DNA probe to tell doctors the number of copies of virus in hepatitis B patients

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 21: City scientists have designed a new DNA probe that
could accurately tell doctors the number of copies of virus in hepatitis B
patients for easy monitoring of the disease.

This is the first indigenously developed DNA probe for detection of "viral
load" (number of copies of the virus) in hepatitis B patients. It has 100 per
cent sensitivity result and can detect all sub-types of hepatitis B virus.
Further, the new DNA probe will cut down the cost of diagnostic tests as it is
designed in the country.

"During diagnosis of hepatitis B virus, chances are that certain sub-types are
not detected. Moreover, for the virus to be detected it has to be present in
certain number. Our DNA probe saves money for patients and help doctors to
change the treatment modalities as it tells them whether or not the patient is
responding to the treatment," said senior scientist Dr MN Khaja.

Dr Khaja and other city scientists Dr Naresh Yalamanchili, Dr Syed
Rahmatullah, Dr Madhavi Chandra, Dr Vishnupriya Satti, Dr Ramachandra
Rao and Dr M Aejaz Habeeb are part of the team that designed the new DNA
probe. They are from the Centre for Liver Research and Diagnostics, Owaisi
Hospital and Research Centre, and Department of Genetics, Osmania
University. Since the probe does not skip any of the virus varieties present in
the patient, it will give the exact viral load he or she is suffering from.

The higher the viral load the greater the severity of the disease. Hepatitis B
positive patients are put on six or 24 weeks of treatment regimen and during
this period the viral load is accessed at regular intervals. If the viral load
comes down, it means the patient is responding to the treatment. If the patient
is not responding, the doctor will change the treatment mode. The city team's
DNA probe helps in this process.

Soft music helps surgeons perform operations better; music in operation theatre gives better coordination

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 20: Dr Mangalampalli Balamurali Krishna, MS
Subbulakshmi, Ustad Bismillah Khan and other great musicians and singers
have one thing in common in operation theatres: they inspire surgeons,
anaesthesiologists and nursing staff to perform surgeries more skilfully and
with better coordination.

The practice of listening to music in operation theatres while performing
surgeries is fast catching up in the country with more and more doctors and
paramedical staff playing soft classical instrumental music, ghazals and even
filmi songs. Doctors in some hospitals have made special arrangement to
listen to their favourite music, while a few corporate hospitals have set up
operation theatres and catheter labs with inbuilt speakers. In some hospitals,
patients, who are put on local or regional anaesthesia, are asked before hand
which type of music they would prefer in the operation theatre.

According to Dr N Ranga Bhashyam, senior gastroenterologist and former
honorary surgeon to the President, playing slow classical music in operation
theatre gives a sedative effect to patients, lessens irritation and provides a
sense of calmness to doctors. "Playing music during childbirth has a great
impact on the patient. Even violent people in mental hospitals can be
controlled through slow music of instruments like flute, violin and veena," he

Dr J Shiv Kumar, cardiologist, says he plays music in his cath lab to keep the
blood pressure and heart beat of his patients under control. "Any music
including rock gives a definite impact in theatre. It is fast catching up here as
many doctors believe that it gives them enough confidence," he adds.

Cancer surgeon Dr P Raghuram points out that playing soft instrumental
music soothes the mind of the surgeon. "The volume must be low and the
music should be only in the background. It encourages organised thought,
improves concentration and dexterity of surgeons In some theatres pop music
is played, but it detracts the attention," he says.

According to senior urologist Dr Kim Mammen, who conducted a study on
the impact of music on surgical staff, playing music in operation theatre
helped in "reducing the autonomic reactivity of theatre personnel in stressful
surgeries allowing them to approach their surgeries in a more thoughtful and
relaxed manner."

Dr Kim said they found that instrumental music was the most sought after
type of music, followed by FM radio, ghazals, English country, English
classical and Indian classical.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Harvesting ovaries, testes from dead wild animals: CCMB develops embryos from ovaries of dead endangered animal

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 12: Ever wondered that a dead animal could give life to young ones. Scientists at the city-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology have developed a major technique that could help generate young animals using the eggs and sperm of dead endangered or wild animals.
The CCMB’s technique will also help protect endangered or wild animals from possible extinction by perpetuating their generation. It involves harvesting of eggs and sperm from dead wild animals and cryopreservation for use in future to generate stem cells and propagate endangered species through cloning.
As endangered animals face the threat of extinction, harvesting of eggs and sperm from the dead ones is a major step forward in conserving scores of rare wildlife species for future generations. The CCMB team has not only obtained the egg cells (oocytes) from the ovaries of the dead animals, but also successfully fertilised them in laboratory to produce embryos.
"Our research is quite unique as we are utilising testes and ovaries of dead endangered animals, which otherwise would have gone waste. Using them we have produced embryos. But we could not move to the next step of transferring the embryos from the laboratory to the animal womb for want of permission. We have successfully demonstrated that ovaries and testes of even the dead animals can be used to produce their offspring at a later date," Dr S Shivaji, CCMB scientist incharge of Laboratory for Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES).
The oocytes would have implications in conservation of endangered animals since they can be cryopreserved. These oocytes could be used to generate embryos, which in turn could be useful to make young ones by embryo transfer. The embryos could also serve as a source for stem cells, while embryonic cells could also be used for nuclear transfer to generate young ones by cloning, Dr Shivaji said.
The CCMB scientists involved in the research project were Dr Brahmasani Sambasiva Rao, Dr Yelisetti Uma Mahesh, Uthanda Raman Lakshmikantan, Komjeti Suman and Katari Venu Charan, besides Dr Shivaji. Oocytes rescued from spotted deer and black buck have been cryopreserved at LaCONES. An ovary may yield as many as 30 eggs depending on the age of the dead animal.
"The ability to rescue gametes from endangered or wildlife species and to subsequently produce viable embryos holds tremendous potential as a means to increase the population size of endangered or wildlife species," Dr Shivaji said adding that its difficult to obtain oocytes from live animals as it is an invasive process for which the government may not give permission.
Application of reproductive biotechnologies for the preservation of endangered mammalian species is limited by several factors such as the lack of availability of species-specific biological material required for a better understanding of the fundamental biology of the male and female gametes.
"It is in this context that rescue of gametes from wild or endangered animals that have died unexpectedly is a worthwhile research tool for understanding the fundamental physiology of the species concerned and also for development of species-specific protocols for application of new emerging assisted reproductive technologies in endangered species," Dr Shivaji pointed out.

Garlic improves insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetes, says IICT study

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 11: One may find it hard to connect the humble garlic with increasing the efficiency of insulin, but research by a team of scientists from the city-based Indian Institute of Chemical Technology has revealed that raw garlic is the best natural medicine for type 2 diabetes.
Regular intake of raw garlic cloves will help in not only improving insulin sensitivity but also attenuating metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome relates to health problems like obesity, decreased power of insulin and those related to the heart. Raw garlic will thus also help in bringing down one's body weight.
"Our work is interesting as it recommends diabetics to consume raw garlic to reduce insulin resistance," says Dr Sanjay K Banerjee, scientist, Division of Pharmacology, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology.
Stating that type 2 diabetes mellitus, characterised by peripheral insulin resistance, is a major lifestyle disorder of the 21st century, Dr Sanjay said it is for the first time that studies have been conducted to evaluate the effect of raw garlic on insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes mellitus. Earlier, raw garlic has been reported to reduce plasma glucose levels in animal models of type 1 diabetes mellitus.
Dr Sanjay said the hypoglycemic (lowering sugar level) effect of garlic is due to the presence of allicin and sulphur compounds. The IICT-CSIR study showed that reduction of body weight gain after garlic consumption could be responsible for improving insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetes.
"Raw garlic homogenate (grounded and mixed) has been the major preparation of garlic subjected to intensive scientific study, as because it is the commonest way of garlic consumption. Our study demonstrates that raw garlic homogenate is effective in improving insulin sensitivity while attenuating metabolic syndrome and oxidative stress," he pointed out.
Dr Sanjay's team comprised Raju Padiya, Tarak N Khatua, Pankaj K Bagul and Madhusudana Kuncha. They selected male Sprague Dawley rats and divided into three groups. One of the groups was fed with fructose as well as raw garlic for eight weeks. The rats fed with raw garlic showed significantly reduced serum glucose, insulin, triglyceride and uric acid levels, as well as insulin resistance.
Allicin is the major bioactive compound in raw garlic paste. When garlic is chopped or crushed, allinase enzyme, present in garlic, is activated and acts on alliin (present in intact garlic) to produce allicin. For best results one should take raw garlic as cooking it will inactivate the enzyme that converts alliin to allicin. However, garlic power can be used.

Faeces of wild and endangered species to tell if the animal is pregnant; CCMB develops technology on faecal steroid hormone assay

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 15: In a major effort to conserve wild and rare animals from extinction, scientists at the city-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology have perfected the art of finding whether or 
not an endangered animal is pregnant by measuring steroids present in the faeces.
Using the faecal matter to find out if a wild animal is carrying is a non-invasive process and thus the animal is not subjected to painful daily blood tests. Just collect the faeces in the morning, subject it to some chemical process and the result is out.
"To know whether an animal is pregnant through assisted reproductive technology, we need to analyse the blood samples on daily basis. For this we need to collect blood from the animal every day. Since the animal is wild, it should be put on sedation before collecting the sample. Sedating wild or endangered 
animals to sedation may reflect on its health. Our method of using faecal steroid hormones eliminates the need for blood analysis," observes CCMB senior scientist Dr S Shivaji.
Assisted reproductive technology is one of the methods adopted worldwide by scientists to keep the numbers of endangered species going up. In this technology, the female animal is brought to "heat" 
or ovulation through artificial methods like using hormones. Later, sperm harvested from a male animal is 
inseminated artificially. Once this process is over, it is difficult to monitor whether the task has resulted in 
Even in cases of artificial implant of embryo developed in petridish, the animal has to be monitored for pregnancy. Analysis of faecal steroid hormones will do away with the hazardous process of sedating 
the animal on daily basis to collect blood samples. "There's the problem of pseudo pregnancy in cats, whether big cats or domestic cats. We can rule out pseudo pregnancy too through our tests," Dr Shivaji added.
The faecal steroid hormone study was first conducted by CCMB team on Asiatic lion, which is listed as a critically endangered species with a couple of dozen wild population left in the Gir forests. They 
successfully monitored the induction of oestrus and ovulation in the Asiatic lion using non-invasive faecal steroid assay.
"In addition to captive breeding, assisted reproduction using techniques such as semen collection, semen
cryopreservation, in vitro fertilisation, artificial insemination and embryo transfer could also facilitate propagation of the rare and endangered animals," he added.

Radiation for cell phones, cell phone towers: Cancer experts say they are as "harmful" as a cup of coffee or talcum powder

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Three months ago newspapers and TV channels the world over created a major public scare when they carried reports linking cell phones to cancers in human beings. They quoted the “deliberations” of the International Agency for Research on Cancer held in Lyon, France in the last week of May.
But now health experts debunk the concerns saying they were based on the “hyped or exaggerated” portrayal in the media of the carcinogenic potential of cell phone use. They also accuse the media of reading of isolated parts of the discussions from the IARC meeting. The IARC, which is controlled by the World Health Organisation, has not officially published its full deliberations and a complete report (monograph) is expected only next year.
This “isolated” reporting has only created unnecessary fears in the common man and triggered wide debate in India, which is fast emerging as a major cell phone hub in the region. Almost everyone in the world is exposed to radiofrequency-electromagnetic frequency (RF-EMF) of 30 kHz to 300 GHz from a variety of sources including cell phones, Bluetooth-enabled products, induction heaters, high-powered pulsed radar, mobile-phone base stations, broadcast antennas, and certain medical devices.
What had really happened at the IARC meeting, according to experts is there were suggestions to declare radiofrequency from cell phones as a “possible carcinogen”, and the meeting agreed to include RF-EMF in the list of items (Group 2B) that could possibly cause cancers after it failed to muster proper scientific evidence.
Cancer expert Dr Gopala Kovvali compared the possible harm that a cell phone would cause to that of a cup of coffee or pickled vegetables, a mouth-watering dish in India. He said cell phone use is no more dangerous than pickled vegetables, which too fall under class 2B carcinogens. Other items in the Group 2B include Styrofoam cups, automobile exhaust and common medications like valium.
That it was unnecessary media hype became clear after the IACR panel comprising 30 scientists from 14 countries officially released a summary of the deliberations in the Lancet Oncology Journal. The panel delved into as many as 40 studies but found "limited evidence" of radiofrequency-electromagnetic frequency carcinogenicity. It noted that similarly, studies examining mechanisms of carcinogenesis provided "only weak mechanistic evidence relevant to RF-EMF-induced cancer in humans."
“The evidence was reviewed critically, and overall evaluated as being limited among users of wireless telephones for glioma (a malignant type of brain cancer) and acoustic neuroma (cancer of nerve that links ear to the brain), and inadequate to draw conclusions for other types of cancers,” the team reported. The WHO, however, has not conducted any study of its own.
And this brings to debate what constitutes a “possible carcinogen” and is cell phone alone in this category? The IARC considers vegetable pickles and coffee too in its list of “possible carcinogens”. IARC has a long list of items that are definitely carcinogenic in nature and those that possibly cause cancers. At present IARC has placed radiofrequency from wireless phones in the Group 2B (possible carcinogens).
Consider this. Way back in 1991, coffee was placed in the Group 2B. The note against coffee in the IARC list says “there’s some evidence of an inverse relationship between coffee drinking and cancer of the large bowel; coffee drinking could not be classified as to its carcinogenicity to other organs”. In other words it means, as far as large intestine is concerned coffee is cancerous, but it is safe for other body parts.
Dr Gopala, who is also the executive editor of the Journal of Carcinogenesis, pointed out that after reading and seeing media reports he was “editorially excited” that a new source of cancer in humans was found. “I was sure that I could show the reports to my family and convince them to give up cell phones and save a huge amount of money. When I realised that the reports suggested that radiofrequency-energy from cell phones was not considered any more carcinogenic than coffee, as both are now in the company of other 
class 2B carcinogens, I gave up the idea, lest I be asked to give up coffee, as I am used to caffeine without which my brain freezes!”
What many had missed was that the studies that were discussed at the IARC meeting were conducted 11 years ago, much before the world caught up with the 3G technology. As Dr Gopala noted the old type of cell phones emitted 100 times more radiofrequency than the modern wireless instruments. In their over enthusiasm some enterprising researchers used “anatomical models” of human beings to drive home their argument that cell phone causes damage to the brain, particularly in children. Anatomical models cannot always reflect the true studies.
As Dr Gopala clarifies “looking at the pictures on TV of the brain that was impacted by the wicked RF energy coming from the cell phones, I was remorseful to have ever used the cell phone. I was especially saddened to hear that the brain of a child was more vulnerable to the harmful effects of the RF-EMF. Little did I know then that these conclusions were based on the anatomical models of humans”.
Incidentally, the IARC last week published a research report which says regular users of mobile phones were not statistically significantly more likely to have been diagnosed with brain tumors compared with nonusers. Children who started to use mobile phones at least 5 years ago were not at increased risk compared with those who had never regularly used mobile phones. No increased risk of brain tumors was observed for brain areas receiving the highest amount of exposure. The absence of an exposure–response 
relationship either in terms of the amount of mobile phone use or by localization of the 
brain tumor argues against a causal association.

Fact box

* Cancer experts say radiofrequency and electromagnetic waves that come out of a cell phone are as “dangerous” as a cup of coffee. This is because the International Agency for Research on Cancer lists both coffee and cell phones under Group 2B. It regards both as “possibly causing” cancers. Other items in the IARC’s Group 2B of possibly causing cancers include vegetable pickles, polystyrene foam cups, automobile exhaust and common medications like valium (prescribed for anxiety disorders).

* The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a WHO body, did not declare that cell phone causes cancers. It did not find any strong evidence to link cancers with the use of cell phone. But newspapers and TV channels reported that the IARC studies had linked cancer to cell phones. In fact, IARC has not conducted any study on its own.

* IARC is now busy preparing a monograph on the proceedings of its  working committee consisting of 30 scientists from 14 nations. The full report will be ready next year. Whether the full report links cell phone to cancers and upgrade RF-EMF from “possible carcinogen” to “carcinogen” category is to be seen. However, IARC’s preliminary summary published in the Lancet Oncology journal says
there’s no proper scientific evidence that use of cell phone causes cancer of the brain.

Toothpaste may be harmful; read the warning on the toothpaste box; many toothpaste brands are not for children below 6 years

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: The next time you buy toothpaste make it sure to read the fine print on the box particularly if you have children below 12 years at home. This is because toothpaste, though seems quite harmless, 
may prove to be detrimental to the health of your little sons and daughters if you fail to follow the 
Most of us fail to read the fine print on toothpaste tube and box. If we read it carefully, most of the toothpaste brands we use at home are not meant for children below six years of age; and some are not 
recommended for children up to 12 years. The toothpaste adults use need not necessarily be good for young children, warn city doctors. There are some toothpaste exclusively meant for children, but even they carry the caution that it is not meant for children below five years.
"We take for granted that toothpaste is for the entire family. But in most cases it is not so. The type of toothpaste we choose should depend on the quantum of the dental problem we suffer. Certain toothpaste 
are not meant for children as they do not know how to spit the excess paste and tend to swallow it. Toothpaste containing chemicals cause mineralisation and they are absorbed into the body. There should always be adult  supervision if toothpaste is used for small children," says Dr M Rahmatullah, chairman of the Indian Academy for Advanced Dental Education.
According to him, children below six years may be given a "pea size" and not the usual two centimetre quantity but it should be under adult supervision and the children should be made to spit it out. "But 
toothpaste containing fluoride and meant for sensitive teeth should not be given to children," he adds.
Fluoride toothpaste as also those meant for "whitening" of teeth and fighting "sensitivity" or tartar should be avoided for children. That toothpaste manufacturers hide the fact that most of the brands are not meant for small children is clear from the television commercials which mostly depict schoolchildren, as if all types of toothpaste are good from the youngsters. While the "benefits" are published in big letters and prominently on toothpaste tube and box, the warning, "not meant for children below six or 12 years" is mostly in fine print, which parents generally fail to read.
"One should not pick whatever type of toothpaste one lays hands on in a super market. If there are small children at home, ordinary toothpaste without chemical additives, foaming agents or abrasives should 
be preferred for them. Adults may use special types of toothpaste depending on the problem they suffer from,"  observes Dr K Sasikiran, general physician of Yashoda Hospitals.
He cautions parents against using toothpaste with high fluoride content. "Though fluoride is known to fight dental caries, it actually causes dental caries in small children if fluoride is in excess quantity. Different brands of toothpaste have varying content of fluoride. If a child swallows toothpaste with high content of fluoride, it may lead to spinal deformities. Whitening or bleaching agents added to toothpaste cause gastritis in children. In a few cases it may even lead to cancer," Dr Sasikiran warns.
Is fluoride so bad for children? Doctors point out that fluoride is good if it is taken in small quantities, but it is the high content of fluoride in toothpaste that causes concerns. Just imagine this. Everyone 
knows that Nalgonda district is notorious for its "high" fluoride content. One can see "live example" of people with deformed teeth, curved spines and bent limbs moving in scores of villages of Nalgonda.
And what is the content of fluoride in ground water in Nalgonda villages?  It ranges between 0.4 to 20 ppm (parts per million). This is in contrast to the upper limit of 0.5 ppm of fluoride in drinking water. But an average fluoride toothpaste contains 1100 ppm.
This in other words means your toothpaste contains 55 times more fluoride content that the highest limit (20 ppm) found in ground water in Nalgonda, which is notorious for fluorosis. If a child swallows fluoride toothpaste regularly he or she is 55 times more prone to fluorosis than a villager living in fluoride-hit 
Nalgonda. The total intake of fluoride through all sources - food and water - should not exceed 8 ppm per day for an adult. For children it is much lower. In case of children if the fluoride content exceeds 1.5 ppm it will lead to dental fluorosis.
Senior dentist Dr K Satyendra Kumar argues that fluoride and other chemicals present in toothpaste are harmful for children as the enamel of their teeth is porous. "Fluoride toothpaste contains between 
1100 and 1600 ppm of fluoride content. Certain toothpaste contain harmful abrasive agents. Anti-tarter toothpaste are meant for those over 18 years while toothpaste for sensitive teeth are recommended for middle and old age persons," he adds.
Permanent teeth just start erupting when a child turns 12 years. At this stage care should be taken against rampant use of toothpaste containing harmful chemicals. Whitening agents, for instance, observes 
Dr Satyendra Kumar bleaches the tooth and produces "nascent oxygen", which is not good for children. "Normal  toothpaste can be used from the time of firth tooth eruption. Half the pea size can be used up to six years.  Between six and 15 years toothpaste with low fluoride content can be used," he suggests.
Apart from fluoride, toothpaste often contain triclosan, which is said to produce chloroform when it reacts with chlorinated water supplied by municipal bodies. Foaming agents like sodium lauryl sulphate, hydrated silica and saccharin are also added to toothpaste. Fluoride is generally added in the form of sodium 
fluoride, which is one of the main ingredients in poison meant to kill rodents. Surfactant, originally a detergent, is also added in some types of toothpaste. Regular intake of surfactant means eating your washing soap.
While grown up children develop dental fluorosis, little children in the age of tooth development run the risk of enamel fluorosis if the intake of fluoride through toothpaste is high. This will cause discoloration of the tooth. White teeth will give way to brownish or black teeth.
According to a report by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the USA,  fluoride in toothpaste is taken up directly by the dental plaque and demineralised enamel and also increases the 
concentration of fluoride in saliva.
Can a toothpaste kill a child if he swallows the entire tube? Dr Sharmila Asthana, consultant paediatrician, Apollo Hospitals, warns that it is "theoretically possible" for a small child to have serious health consequences if he/she consumes a whole tube of toothpaste depending on the size of the toothpaste tube and the weight of the child.
"If ingested, fluoride reacts with gastric acid in the stomach to produce hydrofluoric acid. Acute exposure to high concentrations can result in immediate effects of abdominal pain, excess salivation and vomiting. Seizures and muscle spasms can also occur. Death due to respiratory paralysis is also a possibility 
although I doubt that concentrations in toothpaste are high enough to do this," Dr Sharmila says.
She has a warning for parents: "If a child accidentally does consume an entire tube of toothpaste, parents should 
regard it as any other acute poisoning and rush the child to the nearest emergency room".
Senior prosthodontist Dr M Sirajur Rahman of King Kothi Government Area Hospital warns that toothpaste containing phosphoric acid, potassium nitrate and fluoride content should not be given to small children. "Such toothpaste causes haemolysis in children and hampers the growth of teeth. They should not be used for children up to 12 years. For children below six years there's should always be adult supervision while using toothpaste meant for little kids," he suggests.

Fact box

* Always read the fine print and warning if any on toothpaste tube and box before using it, particularly if there are children below six years at home. Certain types of toothpaste are not meant for children 
up to the age of 12.

* Do not go by TV commercials. Decide the type of toothpaste for your children after consulting a dentist or physician.

* For children below six years use toothpaste of the size of half pea. Do not use two centimetres of toothpaste for children as many families generally do. Use a pea size as the child grows older. Teach 
children not to swallow toothpaste.

* Toothpaste can kill a child if he swallows the entire tube. The severity of the problem depends on the content consumed and the age and weight of the child.

*  Till the child learns to brush, rinse and spit out toothpaste, give only the brush to the child without the toothpaste, as the child will end up sucking on the toothpaste and swallowing it. Parents should 
brush in the child's presence so that the child learns to brush by seeing them do it.

* If you are using fluoride toothpaste for your child, take advice from a doctor.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

DRDO to set up second missile testing facility at Machilipatnam: Oil explorers say it will affect Krishna-Godavari basin

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 9: The proposed integrated testing range (ITR) in
Machilipatnam will reduce India's exclusive economic zone on Eastern
offshore by almost three-fourth from 6.40 lakh sq km to 1.82 lakh sq km.

If the Defence Research and Development Organisation goes ahead with its
proposal to set up the country's second ITR in Krishna district to test long
range missiles of Agni series, the premier defence research body will get
control of about 4.58 lakh sq km of India's EEZ in the Bay of Bengal and the
Indian Ocean. It is this EEZ which holds the potential for oil and natural gas
exploration. Of this, the K-G basis spreads over an area of about 50,000 sq

According to Venkat Kameshwar of SNP Infra Research, "two of the four
blocks of Krishna-Godavari basin come under the proposed missile testing
range. As a result, ONGC might have to give up two of its blocks - KG OSN-
2009/1 and 2 in which it holds 80 per cent and 90 per cent stakes,
respectively. Andhra Pradesh Gas Infrastructure Corporation owns 10 per
cent in each block. Thus the production of gas and oil would be affected."

Though Machilipatnam is far away from the oil and natural gas exploration
sites in K-G basin, the DRDO will take under its control a vast expanse of
area for security reasons. This brings a part of the K-G basin under DRDO's

"Every testing range has a coverage area in which nothing is allowed and is
under complete authority of DRDO given the secrecy involved. Level 5
clearance is required to enter these centres," Venkat said adding that the K-G
basin’s two blocks once functional would emit gas and other pollutants,
which will impact the testing capabilities of the missile centre.

Moreover, the DRDO will not allow any human movement near the range,
which spreads over a large area, both on sea and land side.

The K-G basin contains as much as 640 mmt (million metric tonnes) of oil
and oil equivalent gas reserves including deep water areas. Under the New
Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP), as many as 92 new oil and gas
discoveries have been made including giant gas field of Eastern offshore,
called D6. This D6 field in KG deep water is contributing about 42 per cent
of the country’s gas production, studies by SNP Infra Research point out.

Along with three other fields - Ravva, PY-1 and PY-3 - KG-D6 has been
producing about 57,000 barrels of oil and 61 mmscm (million metric
standard cubic metres) of gas per day.

The importance of K-G basin can be gauged from the fact that the resources
in Mumbai High, which has been serving the nation for the last four decades,
are depleting fast. The future needs of the country will largely be met by K-G

According to sources, the DRDO has objected to D6 field as it falls fully
under the proposed ITR zone. It has also reportedly sought reduction of D7
towards the sea. Other blocks like D3, D4 and D5 will also be affected if the
DRDO has its say.