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Eluru Mystery Disease

Context

A ‘mystery disease’ has left 450 patients in Eluru, Andhra Pradesh with seizures, nausea, dizziness and headaches. Among tentative reasons being blamed are organochlorides.


About

What are organochlorines?

  • Organochlorines (OC) are a group of chlorinated compounds that belong to the class of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) with high persistence in the environment.

  • OC insecticides were earlier used to control malaria and typhus; they were later banned in most countries.

  • They are widely used as pesticides.

  • They are relatively cheaper; as a result Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH), aldrin and dieldrin are among the most widely used pesticides in developing countries of Asia.

How do these pesticides reach people?

  • Accidental inhalation: People can be exposed to organochlorines through accidental inhalation if they are in an area where such pesticides were used or sprayed. The chemicals can also be ingested through fish, dairy products and other fatty foods, which can get contaminated.

  • Accumulation in environment: Organochlorine pesticides accumulate in the environment. They are persistent and move long distances in surface runoff or groundwater.

How can these pesticides affect human health?

  • Short-term exposure: Exposure to organochlorine pesticides over a short period may result in convulsions, headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, tremors, confusion, muscle weakness, slurred speech, salivation and sweating.

  • Long-term exposure: Long-term exposure to organochlorine pesticides may damage the liver, kidney, central nervous system, thyroid and bladder.


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