New Research Shows Bhopal Gas Victims More Prone to Hypertension

Bhopal gas disaster survivors suffer from chronic health conditions
Patients wait to be seen at the Sambhavna Clinic in Bhopal. Photo by David Graham

Press Statement, April 7th 2013

At a press conference organized on the occasion of the World Health Day, staff at the Sambhavna Trust Clinic in Bhopal presented the findings of a recent study that show that the survivors of the December 1984 Union Carbide disaster are more prone to develop high blood pressure than unexposed people from the same socio-economic background.

The study was carried out by the community health workers at the clinic using a sample of 195 persons above 30 years of age from the Rajgarh Colony near the Union Carbide factory and a similar number from 100 Quarters near BHEL Jamboree Grounds. The study showed that 28 % of survivors of the disaster were hypertensive whereas in the unexposed population the figure was 23 %.

Curiously the study showed that 31 % of women had hypertension in comparison to 23 % of men in the gas exposed population. According to World Health Organisation’s ‘global health statistics 2012’ in India, 23.10% of men and 22.60 % of  women over 25 years of age suffer from hypertension. In the unexposed population more men are hypertensive than women.

The study pointed to an alarming fact that 82 % of people in both exposed and unexposed communities were not aware that they were hypertensive. This is particularly worrisome because untreated hypertension can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and kidney failure. Another health risk identified by the study was the prevalence of obesity particularly among female gas victims. 44 % of the women in the gas exposed population were overweight or obese and 68 % of such women were hypertensive.

Dr Mohammad Ali Qaisar, one of the physicians working at the Sambhavna Clinic said that many scientific studies have shown that exposure to pesticide and other toxic chemicals causes hardening and narrowing of blood vessels, called atherosclerosis, that results in high blood pressure in the exposed individuals.

Dr Qaisar pointed out that a large proportion of the Bhopal disaster survivors registered at the Sambhavna Trust Clinic have been diagnosed with hypertension, and in fact, it is the second most common diagnosis.  Among the 7681 gas affected persons over 30 years of age registered at the clinic, 3508 (46 %) have been diagnosed with hypertension. More gas affected women (54%) than men (33%) were found to suffer from hypertension. It is interesting to see that women in the age group 41 to 50 years of age were most diagnosed with hypertension compared to men who were most hypertensive in the age group 51 to 60.

Dr. Qaisar has called upon the Department of Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation to pay special attention to surveillance, treatment, follow up and health education focused on hypertension in the gas affected population.

Girl with candle Bhopal

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