Death and misery in NCP

Media reports (Island and Amarasara) have indicated that thousands of Sri Lankans living in the  North Central Province (NCP) of Sri Lanka are facing death and suffering from kidney disease, perhaps due to consumption water contaminated with heavy metals and toxic weed killers. I wish to thank Dr. Prasanna Cooray and others mentioned in his article for bringing this scandal to the public domain. The poisoning of people would cause large scale human suffering and economic hardship to the victims and their families. The harm to humans would be similar to the damage done by Asbestos. We have to help these people and if necessary, the people need to be given land else where in the country. Even one person ill in a family would be a burden and  the poor families will face extremely harsh conditions unnecessarily. We should investigate the root cause of the problem and eliminate the factors that cause the problem.

In my view, if adequate control measures cannot be used to eliminate the toxins in the water, then these chemicals should be banned from importation and use. I believe the toxins should be banned from use until the situation is stable and preventative measures are taken.

The plight of the people from NCP face should be brought to the attention of the nation and also to the authorities. As heavy metals can get into the food chain with disastrous consequences, the issues need immediate attention.

A  search on the internet indicated the toxic effect of the substances found in the water and given below :

Heavy metals

Heavy metals in the human body can bring about mental retardation and mental health problems. Toxicity of heavy metals is well known and immediate action has to be taken so that humans are not poisoned by heavy metals.


Several organs are affected by propanil and its metabolites. Liver and kidney damage are likely after long-term exposure. Dermatitis (rashes) and sensitization (allergies) are possible [1].


Chlorpyrifos is  toxic to humans.

LONG TERM : Continual absorption at intermediate dosage may cause influenza-like illness which includes symptoms like weakness, anorexia and malaise. Prolonged or repeated over exposure to the product Lorsban may result in delayed liver and or kidney damage.  Other chronic exposure effects are behavioural neurotoxicity and organo-phosphate induced delayed neuropathy [2].

The source of heavy metal poisoning has to be found as soon as possible. Many studies have shown the harmful effects of weed killers on humans  The harmful weed killers has to be banned from importation  and use and alternative methods of weed killers need to be found, such as burning.

Possible short term solutions :

Use wells that are not contaminated.

Stop eating fish or plants that are contaminated.

Form self help groups to help each other and also to disseminate information. Groups could help each other in digging wells or boreholes.

Construct deep boreholes for water. Seek help from IC for decontamination.

Provide transported or piped water.

Transport water or use bottled water for drinking.

Seek effective water filters

ref : http://curriculum.toxicology.wikispaces.net/ il?f=print

a) Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C)

Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) is an antioxidant that scavenges free radicals in vivo, minimising the formation of metHb. In vitro data supports the use of ascorbic acid in the management of acute propanil poisoning.

b) using oral activated charcoal

http://curriculum.toxicology.wikispaces.net/ ted+charcoal

c) Decontamination of drinking water by using  rice husk ash-based water filter.

http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=rice+husk+deconta mination&btnG=Google+Search&meta =

10. The above suggest that consuming food with Vitamin C could reduce the damage. Further, the above suggest the use of activated  charcoal to filter the water.

Possible long term solution :

1. Reservoirs to filter the water

2. Banning of toxic weed killers

Extract from article in Amarasara

Through his research, Prof. Bandara has shown that cadmium, (iron and lead) are present (some in very) high concentrations in the water sources, soil and even in the ‘nelum’ (lotus) rhizomes and ‘Thilapia’ fish in the affected areas. Similarly, research by Perera and Wickremarachchi have shown the weedicide propanil and the insecticide chlorpyriphos in excess amounts in water. In addition, most parts of the NCP also have high concentrations of fluoride in the ground water, which has attributed to a condition known as dental fluorosis that causes discolouration of teeth, a condition that has affected the people of these areas for generations (though not lethal).

References :

1. Pesticide information profile

http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/profiles/extoxnet/metiram-propox ur/propanil-ext.html

2. http://www.netspeed.com.au/rdi/cas/chlor2.htm

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