Research Digest

Lab notes: Bhopal residents exposed to methyl isocyanate in 1984 continue to have DNA damage

Fresh tests on people who were exposed to the chemical showed that the frequency of genetic aberrations has increased with time.

Victims of Bhopal gas tragedy continue to suffer damage in their DNA, a new study has revealed.

Methyl isocyanate, which released from the Union Carbide plant in December 1984, is known to damage human DNA by interacting with proteins. Such damage was recorded in studies done by the Indian Council of Medical Research in years following the gas leak.

Now a team of scientists from MGM New Bombay Hospital has performed fresh tests on people who were exposed to MIC and found that the damage continues. Researchers used the same categorization that was used by Indian Council of Medical Research – people were grouped as severely exposed, moderately exposed or unexposed. Blood samples of 156 persons were collected for this study. Of this, 130 samples gave readable data and anomalies detected were classified, and results compared with Indian Council of Medical Research screening performed between 1985-1988.

The study has shown two trends. Even though people who were severely exposed to the gas now possess fewer abnormal cells, the frequency of aberrations within such cells has increased with time. Another finding was increase in chromosomal aberrations even in people who were not exposed or moderately exposed to the gas.

The researchers explain it could be due to several reasons. “A number of confounders, including lifestyle, environment, nutritional factors, drinking water, occupational exposures, and inherent genetic conditions interact. Additionally, continuous soil contamination by chemical wastes dumped in the Union Carbide India limited site might have augmented the genetic changes through interaction with other biologic and abiologic factors,” the study says.

Dr Hit Kishore Goswami, former founder chairman of Department of Genetics at Bhopal University (now Barkatullah University) who was involved in Bhopal studies, commented that “many follow up studies have been performed by individual groups, each differing slightly in their approach. This study also does the same. It manages to expose the complications of chemical contact with better techniques”.

However, Dr V Ramana Dhara, adjunct clinical professor at the Rollins School of Public Health of Emory, commented that “given problems with the study design and a lack of clear exposure-response, it does little to advance the knowledge of methyl isocyanate toxicity.”

The study was conducted by Bani B Ganguly and Shaouvik Mandal from the MGM Centre for Genetic Research and Diagnosis, MGM New Bombay Hospital. It has been published recently in journal Mutation Research-Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis.

This article was first published by India Science Wire.

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

When did we start parenting our parents?

As our parents grow older, our ‘adulting’ skills are tested like never before.

From answering every homework question to killing every monster under the bed, from soothing every wound with care to crushing anxiety by just the sound of their voice - parents understandably seemed like invincible, know-it-all superheroes all our childhood. It’s no wonder then that reality hits all of a sudden, the first time a parent falls and suffers a slip disc, or wears a thick pair of spectacles to read a restaurant menu - our parents are growing old, and older. It’s a slow process as our parents turn from superheroes to...human.

And just as slow to evolve are the dynamics of our relationship with them. Once upon a time, a peck on the cheek was a frequent ritual. As were handmade birthday cards every year from the artistically inclined, or declaring parents as ‘My Hero’ in school essays. Every parent-child duo could boast of an affectionate ritual - movie nights, cooking Sundays, reading favourite books together etc. The changed dynamic is indeed the most visible in the way we express our affection.

The affection is now expressed in more mature, more subtle ways - ways that mimics that of our own parents’ a lot. When did we start parenting our parents? Was it the first time we offered to foot the electricity bill, or drove them to the doctor, or dragged them along on a much-needed morning walk? Little did we know those innocent acts were but a start of a gradual role reversal.

In adulthood, children’s affection for their parents takes on a sense of responsibility. It includes everything from teaching them how to use smartphones effectively and contributing to family finances to tracking doctor’s appointments and ensuring medicine compliance. Worry and concern, though evidence of love, tend to largely replace old-fashioned patterns of affection between parents and children as the latter grow up.

It’s something that can be easily rectified, though. Start at the simplest - the old-fashioned peck on the cheek. When was the last time you gave your mom or dad a peck on the cheek like a spontaneous five-year-old - for no reason at all? Young parents can take their own children’s behaviour available as inspiration.

As young parents come to understand the responsibilities associated with caring for their parents, they also come to realise that they wouldn’t want their children to go through the same challenges. Creating a safe and secure environment for your family can help you strike a balance between the loving child in you and the caring, responsible adult that you are. A good life insurance plan can help families deal with unforeseen health crises by providing protection against financial loss. Having assurance of a measure of financial security for family can help ease financial tensions considerably, leaving you to focus on being a caring, affectionate child. Moreover,you can eliminate some of the worry for your children when they grow up – as the video below shows.


To learn more about life insurance plans available for your family, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of SBI Life and not by the Scroll editorial team.