Almost 25 years after the infamous Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984 in which thousands of people were killed, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is launching a research programme on the 'long term effect(s) of MIC gas , if any, on the Bhopal population, either exposed or affected (in December 1984)'.
The area of the research programme included genetic disorders, low birth weight, growth and development disorders, congenital malformation and biological markers of MIC/toxic gas exposure on Bhopal population. For the purpose, the ICMR has invited research proposals and has also issued a set of guidelines for the purpose.
As per the guidelines, the projects should be based on the clinical and epidemiological findings in the aftermath of the Bhopal gas disaster. Every investigation must include information about affected and unaffected exposes, as well as control from totally unexposed population groups.
Investigations should be centered on duly recorded cases of congenital malformations and/or low birth weights, and delayed developmental disorders, including delayed milestones of the affected members of the family and their sibling. Wherever possible, it is essential that the performance should include or at least indicate documentary support or evidence of: exposure to the toxic gases, such as fatalities, hospitalization and therapeutic intervention and detoxification measures, if any, during/at the time of the Bhopal gas tragedy.
The study should collect follow-up data in adequate numbers of authentic cases of initial low birth weight along with their respective controls. The respective patterns of growth and development must be subjected to statistical analysis. It is important to establish whether similar trends persisted in their progeny, either way.
Other developmental issues like retardation of genitalia and reproductive functions could also be assessed in the programme. The researchers will also undertake the studies in three successive generations of MIC gas exposes. Study cases of the original victims and progeny with not only lowered physical, but mental and psychological potentials, in comparison with corresponding socio-economic controls.
Other area of research is the congenital malformations. The initially reported high incidence of congenital malformations in the wake of the Bhopal disaster was found to be well within the national average. However, such a possibility in the subsequent pregnancies due to genetic or chromosomal abnormalities could be studied. A decade-wise analysis of congenital malformations in the affected, and control population of Bhopal, as compared with the national and global figures will be an important contribution to population dynamics of industrialization.
Another area of the research programme is genetic disorders. In the aftermath of the Bhopal gas disaster, the views on chromosomal alterations and damage in the Bhopal gas victims was that it was one-time toxic manifestation; or some felt it could be the fore-runner of chromosomal abnormalities. This may be substantiated by a cross-sectional study. A systematic study could undertake a trans-generational chromosomal study among exposés and unaffected population of Bhopal using more up-to-date methods of analysis.