Category Archives: HEALTH

About alternative medicine, ayurveda, accupressure, exercise, yoga, home remedies

For a healthy adulthood parents must ensure kids get enough Nutrition for growth

Mother has a 75 year old helper called Bhavani Amma. I remember Bhavani Amma for her peculiar diet, or ‘strict diet’, that baffles everyone. Before telling about her diet I would like to explain her background.

Bhavani Amma spent her childhood on the shores of backwaters in Allappuzha which is famous for the paddy fields and fresh fish. She grew up on a diet of nature fresh rice and fresh-caught fish curry. In her twenties she was married off and she came to settle in our part of Allappuzha . Fish caught from the backwaters, rivers and sea reaches our village only after 8 to 10 hour. Bhawani Amma is choosy, she eats only fresh-caught fish with soft bones. Which means most of the days she had frugal diet. Bhawani Amma doesn’t consume chicken and in case non-veg is cooked in her home, she will survive on tea, from a nearby tea-shop, (chaya-vellam as we call in Kerala prepared from 1 portion milk and 2 portion water) for the next two days.

She has a concave stomach hollow like a shallow frying pan. My mother used to worry that Bhawani Ammani will one day starve to death because of her stubborn diet.

Last year Bhawani Amma slipped and fell; and as it is common among elderly we thought she was going to be bed-ridden for the rest of her life. To our surprise the doctor said that she had a minor injury and she will recover soon because of all the calcium she had accumulated in her younger days.

Bhawani Amma’s story compels me to believe that whatever we do in growing period keeps us healthy and sharper in our adulthood and old age. A doctor once said that after the age of 40 if you suddenly start having milk that would not benefit you in any form. And all of a sudden if you start jogging after the age of 40 that would not benefit you. Your diet and fitness regimen should be inculcated in the childhood.

Born during the time when the environment was unpolluted, nature provided Bhawani Amma, from a poor family, with all the nutrition for growth. In today’s world even the fish and vegetables are polluted. So we do not have the uncontaminated natural source to accumulate all the healthy nutrients. Hence we need to depend on food supplements to provide necessary vitamins, proteins and minerals during the growing period. One such popular and easy source of nutrient intake is by malt-based milk drinks.

Parents are doubtful whether milk health drinks are good for the children. Nowadays as we do not have the natural sources to provide proteins, vitamins and minerals to our kids, giving them malt-based hot milk drinks helps provide some nutrition for growth. Studies by consumer organizations show that malt-based milk drinks contains vitamins, minerals, calcium and protein; either all or majority of the nutrients. Children grow up within the blink of an eye and they should not be denied the essential nutrition for growth.

A mother of a 20 yr old girl now wonders whether her daughter did not grow taller because she did not give milk drinks. So instead of ruminating over ‘to give or not to give’ malt-based milk drinks to kids, better start giving them a hot glass of milk drink everyday. Since Consumer studies do not show any side effects of having milk drinks let the kids have milk drink and accumulate some nutrients.

Ministry of environment issues draft notification to check lead in household and decorative paint

According to a notification by Ministry of Environment, metallic lead in household and decorative paint exceeding 90 parts per million is hereby prohibited. The Ministry of Forest, Environment and Climate Change in India, issued the draft Gazette Notification on 8th April, 2016, of certain rules to regulate the manufacture, trade, use, import and export of lead contents in household and decorative paints.

Bureau of India Standards (BIS) shall be the nodal agency for the purposes of these rules and shall implement the provisions of these rules. These rules may be called the Regulation on Lead contents in Household and Decorative Paints Rules, 2016.

Presently there is not mandatory regulation to limit the use of lead in paint. The notification comes after persistent campaigns by consumer organisations and environmentalists as Lead is a major health hazard.  Lead poisoning may lead to genetic disorder, anaemia, learning disability, joint paint, and a host of other ailments. In most countries their are strict regulations to curb the use of lead in paint.

The following conditions shall be applicable namely:

  • The manufacturer or importer of the product shall label its product stating that the lead content does not exceed 90ppm and such labelling shall be durable and legible
  • The labelling shall contain the name of the manufacturer and the importer
  • The stipulations regarding the content of lead shall apply to paints manufactured on and from the date of coming into force of these rules
  • Every manufacturer or importer of product shall have a valid certificate of approval of the nodal agency for the manufacture of the product in India or for being imported into India
  • Every manufacturer or importer shall submit a schedule for drawing samples by the nodal agency by 31st March every year for subjecting its product for verification for conformity with the provision of rule 2.

Any person or organization desirous of making any suggestion or objection respect of the present draft rules may forward the same by writing by mail or fax for consideration of the central government within sixty days to W. Bharat Singh, Joint Director, Ministry of Environment.

Also Read: Be part of the Big Impact: Stop Lead Poisoning

66 percent of Children tested had more than 5 Blood Lead Level

In Cities in India, people are aware that the environment is polluted and that Lead is one of the pollutants. During the Lead in Maggi controversy, consumers argued that compared to the other pollutants in the environment, Lead in Maggi was miniscule. In India, unlike in US there is no mandatory test among consumers to figure out lead toxicity in children.  Blood Lead Level (BLL) more than 5 can cause health, growth, neurological and mental problem for children. There is very little study in India to figure out the BLL of consumers in India among those who are not directly at risk from Lead pollution.

High BLL among Middle and Lower Class

Recently in a study conducted by Lead Activists and Doctors in Banglore, among inpatients aged less than Five, 66% of the children had BLL <5 μg/dl, which is considered as level of concern as per Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention.   The patients have no direct risk of lead exposure. Along with BLL done on the children, questionnaire was supplied to the parent to know about their awareness about lead poisoning.  100 children belonged to the lower, middle and the higher income group. The children with the High BLL belonged to the lower income group more than the middle and the higher income group.

With 66 out of 100 children showing high BLL — with no known direct risks to Lead exposure — proves that there is an urgent requirement of conducting BLL test among children in cities in India.

Very little awarness of sources of Lead Exposure

Lead toxicity in childeren in India - table

The study showed that the awareness of the sources of lead toxicity and the effect of lead poisoning is very poor among consumers in India. Consumers are aware of Lead hazard from paints and batteries, but they were unaware of the lead exposure from soil, dust, groundwater and  vehicular traffic. Apart from the occupational exposure to Lead, water, contaminated food and consumer items are also major sources of Lead. In Delhi there were media reports about Lead in vegetables grown near contaminated water bodies.

According to the study ” ……… build up of Lead
in the environmental compartments is still an issue of high
exposure risk in India, inspite of the relatively lesser organized
production and use of Lead as compared to the developed
countries.”

Parents were prepared to conduct Lead Testing of their surroundings so as to provide safe environs for the Children.

Parents prepared for Lead Tests

The study also showed that parents were prepared to conduct Lead Testing of their surroundings so as to provide safe environs for the Children.

With 66 out of 100 children showing high BLL — with no known direct risks to Lead exposure — proves that there is an urgent requirement of conducting BLL test among children in cities in India. And also awareness should be spread among consumers about how to safeguard their children from Lead exposure. The media can be put to use to spread the message. According to studies children exposed to lead have lower IQ which effect their mental development and thereby resulting in a loss to the nation and humanity.  As Lead is not required in any amount by the human body, steps must be taken to reduce or eliminate the use of Lead.

In order to reduce the menace of Lead you can also participate in the #StopLeadPoisoning campaign.

Few facts about Mosquito-borne Zika Virus in India

There is an alarming spread of the Zika virus in various parts of the world by the Aedes aegypti mosquito that is also the carrier of dengue, yellow fever and chikungunya viruses.  The outbreak which is spreading fast across the globe due to human alterations of their environments. Scientists and Ecologists state can empower disease-carrying organisms such as Aedes, and the viruses can eventually add on in various forms.

Zika virus is an emerging mosquito-borne virus that was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in rhesus monkeys through a monitoring network of sylvatic yellow fever. It was subsequently identified in humans in 1952 in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. Outbreaks of Zika virus disease have been recorded in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific. Papers published by National Institute of Virology (NIV), in Pune in 1950’s, by a team of experts and the published paper in 1953, indicates that India is also prone to Zika Virus attacks. They conducted tests on the exposure of Indians to 15 insects-borne diseases, one of which was by the Zika virus. It was found that ‘significant numbers’ of people were exposed to the virus as early as in the 1950s, even before the first official registering of a case of humans in Nigeria in 1954. Only thirty-three of the 196 people tested for the disease had immunity to it. The NIV had concluded in their paper that “It, therefore, seems sure that Zika virus attacks human beings in India.”

Malaria, dengue and chikungunya affected 1.13 million people in India last year. For a decade, the number of reported confirmed cases of malaria is nearly 1.87 crore, and the number of reported deaths due to Malaria case in India is approximately 12,000. At the outset, last year dengue cases and deaths had reached an all-time high in India with 97,000+ cases and 200 deaths in 2015 itself. Our country bears an enormous burden of mosquito-borne diseases, contributing 34 per cent of global dengue and 11 per cent of global malaria cases and with mosquito-borne diseases like  Malaria, Dengue and Chikungunya being widespread in the country for many decades, India should focus how to handle the scenario in case the Zika virus outbreak.

The virus is transmitted by the same mosquitoes that carry other tropical viruses such as dengue and yellow fever. Global health officials are alarmed because of its potential link to brain defects in infants as well as a rare syndrome that can lead to paralysis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that because the Aedes species mosquitoes that spread Zika virus are found throughout the world, it is likely that outbreaks will spread to new countries”. The Zika virus is carried by mosquitoes and people but spread by mosquitoes. A few recent studies indicate that Zika continues to be an STD (Sex Transmitted Disease) too. Zika is an RNA virus related to West Nile, yellow fever, and dengue viruses, and caused by the bite of the Aedes mosquito.

 According to WHO (World Health Organisation), Symptoms of Zika virus infection is usually mild. The most common Zika virus symptoms are fever and rash; it can also cause muscle and joint pain, headache, pain behind the eyes, and conjunctivitis (itchy, red eyes).  Unborn babies and pregnant women are most at risk. Healthcare workers in Brazil were stunned to learn that, throughout all of 2015 and up to the present, there have been more than 3,500 total new microcephaly* cases that were suspected to be caused by Zika — more than 20 times higher than the numbers in prior years.

The blood-sucking pest has been just increasing with of lot environmental issues, and human intervention with the environment and the dense population of the country also need to be blamed for the rise in the unhygienic way of lifestyle.  Mosquito-borne diseases just spread in, no matter in a particular geographical and before the medical intervention/ control of the scenario it just outbreaks into nuke and corner.

So, the best way of handling the bloodsucker by an individual is to manage our environment. Here are few listed preventive measures to avoid the growth of mosquito and it’s borne disease:

  • Source reduction: Keep the containers such as flower pots, birdbaths, pet water dishes, cans, gutters, tires and buckets free of water storage to avoid the mosquito breeding cycle.
  • Screen & Avoid: Possible ways of mosquitoes entering homes through doors, windows- Keep them netted / pre-close during the morning and evening session. 
  • Proper Clothing & Netting: Make sure you keep away from mosquito bites by wearing full-covered clothes. Use nets/ mosquito repellent while you sleep/ during travel.
  • Environmental Survey of Locality: Report the unused swimming pools, abandoned lake/pond zones in your area to authorities for proper/regular maintenance. Park zone equipment should not cater to mosquito breeding.
* Abnormal smallness of the head, a congenital condition associated with incomplete brain development.

About the Author:  
vinay kumarVinay Kumar. C is an Environmental Researcher at NRCLPI – The National Referral Centre for Lead Poisoning in India. He is a multi-skilled professional having an excellent track record of managing complex functional projects in various environments.  

 DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

Be part of the Big Impact: Stop Lead Poisoning

Colourless, odourless and poisonous lead, invisible to the naked eye but is present in the soil, water, air and products of daily use. In countries like The US, FDI takes stringent measures to ensure that lead compound in consumer goods are within the permissible limit; mandatory labour rules and regulations assure the safety of Lead workers. In India various organizations successfully highlighted the hazards of lead in petrol and lead in paint, and they were successful in implementing certain restrictions on the usage of lead. Now Lead is not used in petrol anymore, and lead in paint has to be within permissible limits. There is a long way to go, much more have to be done to reduce or restrict the use of lead in India.

In the last two years, Consumers India conducted a series of research with students, researchers and doctors, accumulating a wealth of information clearly indicating towards the presence of a hazardous level of Lead in India. As a result of consistent effort, letters, based on the studies and discussion, have been sent to Prime Minister, Health Minister, Cabinet Secretary and others in Government of India. This issue has also been flagged before National Human Rights Commission.

According to WHO, 13 out to the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India, and Delhi tops the chart with six times the level of airborne particulate matter than are considered safe. WHO prepared the report based on the presence of harmful gases in the air such as nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide. There are some other pollutants in our surrounding which need to be reduced or if possible removed from the environment. One such pollutant is Lead, described as ‘hazardous’ and ‘poisonous’ worldwide, and found in dangerous level in the atmosphere as well as inside the human body. All lead found in products are lead compounds which oxidize and mixes with water, soil, air and human blood and bone.

Inorganic Lead compounds used for the industrial or domestic purpose, mostly in the oxidized state, leaches into the soil, water and air resulting in many health hazards leading to even death. According to studies Lead (PB2) is mistaken for Calcium (Ca2) and gets into the bones.

Lead has been used since time immemorial and was considered healthy for use. But scientific studies and clinical reports prove that lead at any level is harmful for human consumption. However because of many useful properties like water resistance and enhancing the colour, lead is used in many domestic and industrial products like the lead sheet, cosmetics, PVC pipes, glaze and ceramic paintings, trinkets and paints.

How to detect lead?

The presence of lead can only be proved by tests at Lead testing labs.

How to participate in the campaign?

All the Data and pictures collected can be tweeted with #StopLeadPoisoning to create the big impact

  • You can take the image of activities around your places like battery recycling or industrial activities which are taking place in areas banned for such activities.
  • If you find lead mentioned in the labeling, then send the pictures.
  • If you think someone, especially worker and kids have symptoms of lead poisoning, take picture and report.
  • If there are products with lead compounds at home, you can click the image.
  • You can also test the soil with Handheld X-ray fluorescence XRF analyzer
  • No level of lead is good for human health, but in many countries blood lead level below 10 is considered safe and above 40 is hazardous.

Products that cause Lead poisoning

big impact - stop lead poisoning

Paints

Lead is used in paints for speedy drying, durability and resistance to moisture that causes corrosion. Since lead is a leading cause of health hazard, many countries have the regulation prohibiting the use of lead in paints.  Alternative water-based paints are available. Although there are restrictions on the usage of lead in paint in India, Lead is added to some paints intended for household use. According to as survey by Toxic Link, it was the small and medium companies that covered 36%of the market which had a discrepancy in their claim about lead in paints. They find some technological difficulty in shifting to lead-free paints. Only lab tests can prove the presence of lead in paint. Lead added paints may be used in the homes. And sometimes playground equipment may contain high lever of lead, making the places hazardous for the kids.

Lead Sheets

Lead sheet is used for the construction of industry for roofing, flashing and cladding. And also used as shielding in the x-ray and nuclear industries. Lead in its solid metallic state (Lead sheet) would not normally present a hazard. However, Lead is a toxic metal and may present a hazard when melted from Lead dust and lead fumes. Oxidation of the surface of the Lead will occur forming a surface layer of Lead compounds.

Lead in water

Lead may be found in some metal water taps, interior water pipes, or pipes connecting a house to the main water pipe in the street. Lead found in tap water usually comes from the corrosion of older fixtures or from the solder that connects pipes. When water sits in leaded pipes for several hours, lead can leach into the water supply

PVC Pipes

As per various surveys and investigations conducted by organisations such as the ‘Quality Council of India,’ the presence of ‘lead in water’ has alarmed people and agencies across the country. Thirty-three percent of over 370 samples of water from the top 26 cities of India tested positive for the harmful content of lead. Out of these, 31% of samples failed to adhere to the World Health Organization (WHO) standards for a lead content of less than 10 ppb (parts per billion), while 2% of the samples failed to meet even the lenient Indian norms of 50 ppb.

Car and Inverter Batteries

 Lead poisoning occurs in many areas because of individuals recycling car batteries melted slag without appropriate controls and without having any understanding of the toxicity of lead.  According to a report, there are 110 Lead acid battery recycling units at Prem Nagar, near Mandoli, in Delhi which….. recover lead, releasing fumes and ash contaminating the air and soil.  Dr Naresh Gupta and Dr Amit Agrawal, of Maulana Azad Medical College, say that blood test on some workers in Delhi found that their blood lead is more that <40μg per dL, i.e., above the permissible limit. In another incident in Delhi  5-year-old girl, whose father is a battery factory worker, died of lead poisoning after suffering from kidney failure.

In humid conditions, car batteries need to be replaced every 2 or 3 years. Batteries are safe, but caution applies when touching damaged cells and when handling lead acid systems that have access to lead and sulfuric acid.

Ceramics Glaze

Lead may be present in the glazes or decorations covering the surface of some traditional pottery. If the pottery is not manufactured correctly, this lead can leach into food and drink that is prepared, stored, or served in the dishes.

It is not uncommon for ceramic items used for cooking or simply for decoration to contain lead. In fact, lead has been used in the glazing process for ceramic dishes, bowls, pitchers, plates and other utensils for centuries. Typically, after being fired in a kiln, a piece of ceramic will appear smooth and shiny due to the lead in the glaze.

However, to ensure that the items are safe for use, it is necessary to heat the ceramic to very high temperatures for a long enough period. If this step is not done correctly, the ceramic could contain levels of lead that pose a threat to human health.

Trinkets

Children use jewelry like bracelets, pendants, rings, etc. To attract kids, jewelry paint bright colours using organo-metallic compounds that are loosely bound to the surface and can peel out quickly. Children have a tendency to chew or swallow the jewellery which can sometimes be lethal.

Cosmetics

  • Kohl, Kahal, Al-Kahal, or Surma: According to FDI, samples often tested contain significant amounts of lead. Lead sometimes accounts for more than half the weight of a sample of kKohl usually in the form of lead sulfide.
  • Lipstick: What many don’t know is that lipsticks may contain lead, the notorious metal that can cause learning, language and behavioral problems. Not all lipsticks contain lead, but some studies in recent years show that the metal is more prevalent than previously thought. In 2007, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics conducted a study — “A Poison Kiss” — that detected lead in 61% of the 33 lipsticks tested, with levels ranging from 0.03 ppm to 0.65 ppm. No lipstick lists lead as an ingredient. The amounts are small, but the presence of lead in lipstick, which is ingested and absorbed through the skin, raises concerns about the safety of a cosmetic product that is wildly popular among women. According to FDI “Lipstick, as a product intended for topical use with limited absorption is ingested only in tiny quantities. We do not consider the lead levels we found in the Lipsticks to be a safety concern.” Cost doesn’t seem to be a factor; a cheap or expensive lipstick isn’t the determinant of how much lead is present.
  • Progressive Hair Dyes: Lead acetate is used as a color additive in “progressive” hair dye products. These products are applied to achieve a gradual coloring effect.To ensure the safe use of these products, it is important that consumers follow these directions carefully.Users can determine if lead acetate is used in a particular hair dye product by reviewing the product ingredient declaration appearing on the label of the cosmetic package.

Toys

Lead may be found in paint on toys. It may also be used in plastic toys to stabilize molecules from heat.

Plastic

Lead softens the plastic. The use of lead is plastic is still prevalent.

Contributors to the Campaign

The inputs from the following discussion and studies were mentioned in the letters sent to Honorable Prime Minister and other higher Authorities.  Important inputs were also provided by various other experts. The contributors are as follows:

  • A group of students, led by Sushant Thakran, pursuing BBS from Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies (University of Delhi) has prepared a study report titled ‘Lead & Occupational Hazards’ during Winter 2014-15 Batch of Internship with Consumers India.
  • Inputs from the study ‘Lead Poisoning and Women’ by the group led by Subuhi Karim (MA Eco-Jamia Millia Islamia).
  • Expert inputs received from Dr Naresh Gupta, Director-Professor,  Maulana Azad Medical College & Associated Hospitals.
  • Dr Roopa Vajpeyi, Academic & Consumer Activist was the mentor of the student groups.
  • Dr Naresh Gupta, Dr Roopa Vajpeyi and Ms Anita Gupta, Academic Head for Science, Mount Carmel School, who were panelists in our programmeIs Lead Poisoning  Killing You Slowly?’
Full text of the LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER, as also some highlights of the study ‘Lead & Occupational Hazards’ are given below.

December 27, 2015

Dear Mr Prime Minister,

I would like to share with you some of our concerns regarding Lead Poisoning emanating from the studies titled ‘Lead & Occupational Hazards’ and ‘Lead Poisoning and Women’ carried out by groups of students led by Sushant Thakran (BBS-3rd yr, Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies, DU) and Subuhi Karim (MA Eco-Jamia Millia Islamia) respectively during internship with Consumers India as also expert inputs received from Dr Naresh Gupta, Director-Professor,  Maulana Azad Medical College & Associated Hospitals, Dr Roopa Vajpeyi, Academic & Consumer Activist and Ms Anita Gupta, Academic Head for Science, Mount Carmel School, who were panelists in our programme Is Lead Poisoning  Killing You Slowly?’ Held on October 28,  2015, at India Habitat Centre.

  • Lead is a chemical element in the carbon group which is used extensively in paints, toys, cable sheathing, lead sheets, PVC Pipes, ammunitions, car and inverter batteries, ceramics glaze, cosmetics, etc.  Ayurvedic and herbal medicines may also contain high levels of lead.
  • WHO has identified lead as one of the chemicals of major public health concern. As per their estimates, 15-18 million children in developing countries are suffering from permanent brain damage due to lead poisoning.
  • The tests carried out by the Centre for Science on popular paints in India found that 72 % of the samples had much higher levels of lead than the voluntary limit specified by the Bureau of Indian Standards.
  • All the samples of artificial jewellery tested by Toxics Link were found to contain very high levels of lead, which when ingested, could lead to lead poisoning.
  • 33% of over 370 samples of water from the top 26 cities of India tested positive for the harmful content of lead. (QCI).
  • Exposure to lead causes anaemia, hypertension, kidney diseases and impaired fertility. Children and pregnant women are particularly susceptible to lead poisoning. The foetus of a pregnant woman is gravely affected by lead exposure since lead can pass through the placenta directly to the baby.
  • Lead paint is the major source of lead exposure for children. Children’s digestive system absorbs up to 50% of the lead they ingest. Studies have shown as much as a 5.8 decline in IQ (on a scale where 100 is average) for every 10 micrograms increase of lead in blood levels.
  • As lead paint deteriorates, it peels. A single chip of paint of the size of a thumbnail contains 1 gram of lead, and a few such chips can raise the intake of lead to 1,000 times the acceptable limit. Children with a history of pica (compulsive cravings to eat non-food items like dirt, paint chips or clay) are at risk of lead poisoning.
  • Cosmetics like lipstick, Kajal and sindoor are major sources of lead poisoning in women. The average quantity of lipstick ingested by a woman in her lifetime is 2 kgs, and it is also linked to infertility and miscarriage.
  • A survey of workers carried out by our interns for their study revealed that most of the painters don’t even know that there is the lead in paint which is hazardous to health. The battery recyclers, however, generally know that their field of work is associated with lead. But they cannot imagine switching jobs as they have to feed their family!
  • A survey of consumers revealed that 70% of them had no awareness of the lead content they are exposed to in day-to-day life.
  • Though Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) had revised its household and decorative paint standards to 90 ppm in 2013, it is rarely followed by industry.

We suggest that following steps be taken by the Government to tackle this menace effectively:

  • It is necessary to establish a national mandatory regulatory framework to control the manufacture, import, export, sale, and use of lead paints, toys, cosmetics, Ayurvedic and herbal medicines and other products causing lead poisoning.
  • Awareness regarding lead poisoning should be spread amongst consumers.
  • Prenatal check up of pregnant women should include the blood test for lead.
  • There is also need to review the existing limits for Lead in prevailing standards. Many countries worldwide are reducing the permissible limits. For example, Canada has a limit of 10 ppm for Lead in products applied to the skin.

We appeal to you to kindly take adequate measures to safeguard the health and well-being of our consumers from the hazards of lead poisoning.

With regards,

Yours truly,

Dr Jayashree Gupta

President, Consumers India

Lessons I learnt from my psychologist Uncle

On the world mental health day I would like to dedicate this post to a  Psychologist, about whom  I know more than I know about mental diseases and mental patients. The Doctor is my uncle, my grand uncle’s son. I call him ‘Appachan’. I don’t have enough material to write an autobiography about him, as I meet him only during some family functions or while paying a flying visit to his home. I know more about his father (my grandfathers brother) who died few months before I was born.

Appachan, the only child of his parent, left home at the at age of 18 to carve a niche for himself. He is 14 years older than my father (Papa). Grand Uncle, my father and siblings affectionately call him ‘Papa-Appachan’, now only had his younger brothers kids to shower his love and nurturing. The cumulative effect of the nurturing is that my father and his siblings quote papa-appachan’s jokes and sayings in every conversation. His jokes and saying shaped their thinking even in their grown up days. I grew up listening to Papa-appachan jokes and in my grown up days I find that those jokes can be applied to solve everyday problem.

Appachan is a celebrity in Kerala. In fact he is the most famous person in our family, so every relative likes to use his popularity to earn a higher standing in the social circuit.  There is one person in our family who introduces himself as “myself, cousin of Dr…………..”. Family relations are like that. No wonder the proverb goes ‘Blood is stronger than water’.

Since my fathers and mother have many siblings, when I used to go to Kerala for vacations I only had time to catch up with my immediate cousins. So I never knew about this uncle. One day, when I was in my teens, papa excitedly spread that days newspaper before me. The page had the pictures of all the contestants for assembly election. He asked me to spot a familiar face. I couldn’t. Then he pointed at Appachan’s picture and proudly said that he was his cousin. I think that was the day our big extended family unofficially anointed him as the family icon.

There are many doctors who give up their profession to become celebrities in music, film and sports. Appachan is unique – though he donned many hats, he remained true to his calling. In movies he acted as Psychologist; he wrote columns in magazines,as a psychologist, answering queries of readers.I can hardly think of any other doctor whom even the children consider as role model. Malayalees above 35+ know him as a famous Psychologist, Columnist, Cartoonist, Humorist, Author, Political aspirant, Actor, etc.  It is very simple to describe his physical appearance – with his tall figure and goatee beard he resembles the former Prime Minister of India, I. K. Gujral.

He was much ahead of his time. A self-learned man, as a youngster he applied on himself many of the tips that we learn today during leadership training.  We are told in career counselling classes to write down our short term and long term goals. Appachan says that in his younger days, he wrote in a diary, ‘Dr……….., Psychologist’. After five decades he discovered the diary in his ancestral home.

He is a wonderful writer, he was the first to write about Sex related issues in Kerala. He says as a novice when he met an editor of a famous magazine, the editor asked to write an instant essay. When the editor saw the essay, he was amazed, he asked Appachan “where from did you get this amazing writing skill”.  Using his amazing writing skills, and psychological expertise he answered the complicated queries of reader in simple words. He became a household name for providing answers to complicated relationship issues, at a time when discussing such issues were a taboo. A story goes that he was called to give a message at a gathering but as his talks were seen as too explicit for the audience he was interrupted in the middle. Nowadays speaking about human relations in no more a taboo.

When someone grows in stature – fame and money, the relatives and friends usually complain about their arrogance. Not in the case of Appachan. All his relatives are aware of the unwritten rules and etiquette that we are to follow at his home. Appachan will be always busy with consultation in the upper floor of his house. When we call on hims, after sharing pleasantries with the other member of the house, we patiently wait for him. After finishing the consultation he comes and spends a few minute with us and ends the conversation with an invitation: if we are ready to wait for the lunch to be prepared we can have, or if we are in a hurry we can leave.

He is down to earth and lives is a simple house. When we visited Appachan’s house for the first time after our marriage,  my husband told me that being a celebrity he expected appachan to be staying is a palatial bungalow. A normal two storied home cum counseling centre also serves as space to unleash his creativity. Before meeting him, I heard a lot about the wash basin in his house where the tap was shaped like an Elephant Trunk. So on my first visit to his house I eagerly awaited to see  two thing- a celebrity uncle and his famous wash basin.

He is not taken aback by false propaganda as is proven by a review about him in a consumer forum. When you google his name, one of the first result that shows is “Dr…………….The worst psychologist”. More than the review, the responses made to the post are more convincing. One person commented “Dr …….. is a good person and lives a simple life. Where others would have made money, his life is still very simple. You can check it out for yourself, just visit his home.”

Now he is 80+ and age has taken toll on his health. Psychically he is weak but his mental power is still as vigorous as few decades back. He still continues his work through counselling sections; and by setting an example through his simple lifestyle.

Where does lead in food come from?

Our body does not require lead, an element found in nature, but because of the presence of lead in many consumer products, and manufacturing process, we get exposed to lead. We have some amount of lead in our body which is not dangerous as long as  it is within permissible limits. The problem with lead is it does not get out as easily from the body, as it gets inside the body. Hence when the lead accumulates in the blood over a period of time it can lead to health issues – damaging the nervous system, causing brain disorders, repeated anemia, a low IQ level, headache, affecting the immune system, impaired fertility, and hypertension. It accumulates in both soft tissues and the bones. The US considers ‘lead’ the number one environmental threat to the health of children.

For the last few month I was trying to convey the above message to the Consumers in India, but with little effect. Along with students of Delhi University, I did a research for Consumers India about Lead Hazards in India. The findings were alarming as lead was found in food, household items, paints, soil and air. Getting the message across to the consumers was difficult because they think there are bigger health hazards in the polluted environs of the city.  We were searching for new methods to educate the public – Seminars in schools, huge billboards in hospitals and messages through media. If there is a suitable substitute for lead then it can be eliminated. Lead Petrol was removed in India after protests from activists and NGOs’.

Thanks to the controversy regarding Lead in Maggi, Consumers are all ears to know about the hazards of Lead. Developed countries have a measurement to find out if a person is within the permissible limit of lead or they need to take medical help. A child in the US is said to be exposed to lead if the Blood lead level is between 4 and 10 mcg/dl(Micrograms Per Decilitre) and precaution are sought from the authorities to find out the source of exposure and precautions to be taken. And if the child has blood lead level of more than 10 mcg they have to undergo  medical treatment.

There are numerous sources of lead exposures – lead batteries, lead paints, pottery with lead paints, newspaper prints, the prints on plastic cover, soil, vegetables that are grown in soil with high concentration of lead, water with lead and air.  We are exposed to lead in all our daily activities and if we check our blood lead level, we might be diagnosed as victims of lead exposure. In our research we found vegetables like spinach contains lead and they are not removed even by thorough washing. Lead is also there in jellies, ice creams and tinned food, as the soldering is of lead.

Food items FDA (The US) checked for high lead c

The United States FDA has stated a number of products that may contain lead more that the permissible level.

  • In 2004, United States Consumer Product Safety Commission found that Candies contained unsafe amount of lead from the wrappers.
  • In 2002, FDA found that Milk Chocolate contained more than permissible limit of lead, which was because of the chocolate liquor used in it. The manufacturers were asked to take precaution while taking raw materials. However the level of lead was found to be high in Dark Chocolates as they contain higher amount of liquor chocolate.
  • FDA also found  lead in candy but within permissible limits. Candies contain sugar (lead in sucrose) which contains ‘average levels of contaminants that are well below the applicable limit’.
  • Mexican candies with chilli as ingredient had detectable level of lead because of the soil they were grown.
  • Candies with tamarind as ingredient was found to have lead because the products were packed in lead glazed bowls.

Where does lead in food come from in Maggi?

In our research we never found any case with noodles having lead. So I asked Vinay Kumar C, Environmental Researcher, National Referral Centre for Lead Projects in India, about the possible routes of lead exposure in Maggi, and following are his assumptions:

1. Masala ( Taste Makers): The success of Maggi is in it’s unique taste of added masala packet which comes with it, prepared exclusively comprising various ingredients. Lead may be entered in any of the raw materials procured – research have indicated that Lead Chromate are usually found in healthy haldi ( turmeric ) and mixed species as common adulteration.

Read also: Serve global brands in India with desi tadka – An anecdote on how Maggi made inroads in India 30 years ago.

 2. Water: Even the water employed during the whole process of Maggi preparation may be contaminated with Lead/ toxic chemicals due to the sub-standard/old metal piping in the various manufacturing units. The possible contamination may also be in its source.  Ex : ground water, tankers from unknown source.
3.Packing: The plastic employed to packing Maggi products need to be tested and certified as various plastic (bright solid-coloured plastic packing bags/covers) may contain high concentrations of lead as per the studies & test results  of Northeast Recycling Council,US.
4.Production Machinery:  The old paints on the machinery or the oil agents( containing lead content) used for running the equipment may have come in contact with production.

In an interview to Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Uday Annapure, an associate professor of the department of food engineering and technology at the Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai, said that while none of the many food additives used in making the wheat noodles support lead, some components of the soup-flavoring packet, such as onion powder and wheat flour, “come from agricultural sources, all vulnerable to lead contamination,” (Source WSJ)

During the course of the research I asked an eminent person about who could be given the credit for the elimination of lead from petrol in India. He said in this big country, India, a single person or an organisation cannot bring about a change. I beg to differ from his argument in this case of spreading awareness about lead hazards. Had lead not been detected in Maggi, no one would have bothered to read this article. Maggi did in 2-minutes what Lead activists could not do for decades – spread awareness about lead exposure among consumers in India.

 Also Read:Lead poisoning: How safe are you?

                          Lead hazard in India!!!

Lead in Food

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Fasting: A powerful therapy in healing chronic diseases

On Good Friday a 38 year old, obese, friend decided to fast by skipping breakfast and lunch. She ended up for the next 5 days in Intensive Care Unit of a hospital suspecting cardiac arrest. She vouched never to fast again. This was a unique experience for me as usually after religious fasts – fasting, prayer and denial of certain food – people say they feel better physically, mentally and spiritually. So I began the research to ascertain whether fasting is good or bad for health.

I discovered that fasting is not just a religious custom but the most ancient and cheapest form of treating diseases. Fasting Therapy is widely being accepted to drastically improve chronic and debilitating illness like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and diabetes. “Fasting is a simple, elegant therapy that has amazing medical benefits. It effectively treated high blood pressure, overcame Type II diabetes, consistently produced dramatic improvements in autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis, and provided effective relief for asthma attacks and migraine headaches.” says Michael Klaper, M.D. a gifted clinician, internationally recognized teacher, and sought-after speaker on diet and health.

fastomg

The cause of most of the diseases is the accumulation of excess and poisonous substance in the body. People, especially in the cities follow a sedentary lifestyle and consume excess food resulting in overburdening the digestive system. By staying away from food for a few days the elimination system in the body removes the poisonous substances accumulated inside. Read this post to find out knee replacement can be avoided by ayurveda.

Fasting sounds like an easy home remedy, because most people skip breakfast as part of dieting. Fasting however should be taken only for a certain duration of time, under professional guidance. Fasting for a prolonged period can be dangerous, so before fasting you must know the benefits and procedure of fasting. And also you must know when to fast, how to break the fast and when not to.

Only a well-experienced doctor, who uses fasting therapy as a treatment, can provide answer to the queries. So I had an interview with Dr. Matthew Brennecke, MS, ND, a board certified naturopathic doctor, in Colorado, who prefers fasting therapy  to pharmaceutical medication for his patients. Here is the interview with the doctor :

Only a well-experienced doctor, who uses fasting therapy as a treatment, can provide answer to the queries. So I had an interview with Dr. Matthew Brennecke, MS, ND, a board certified naturopathic doctor, in Colorado, who prefers fasting therapy  to pharmaceutical medication for his patients. Here is the interview with the doctor :

What are the benefits of fasting?

There are a lot of benefits to fasting. It gives the vital organs complete rest.  It stops the intake of foods that decompose in the intestines and poison the body.  It empties the digestive tract and disposes of putrefactive bacteria. It gives organs of elimination an opportunity to catch up with their work and further promote elimination. It re-establishes normal physiological chemistry and normal secretions. It promotes the break down and absorption of exudates, deposits, effusions, diseased tissue, and abnormal growths. It permits the conservation of energy. It clears and strengthens the mind. It improves function throughout the body. It can restore a youthful condition of the cells and tissue, which rejuvenates the body.

Does it cure any disease?

But it doesn’t cure anything.    Curing is possible,but it takes work and you can start by exercising and putting the right foods in your mouth.

Does fasting mean abstaining from food for a certain time?

Not only is there quite a bit of confusion regarding fasting, but there are also many fasts to choose from.  Are you going to water fast, juice fast, do a master cleanse, etc.?  Which one is right for you?  This usually depends on the disease we may be using it for.  Oftentimes, we choose fasting as options to decrease symptoms experienced by the patient when it comsto IBS, arthritis, thrombophlebitis, or skin afflictions.  But, we have to be careful to avoid starvation, in which vital organs can be broken down for proteins, unmonitoredketosis, which results from the breakdown of fat, or electrolyte imbalances,which can cause a whole host of issues.   If we want an opportunity to cure any of our chronic disease, we needto start making the right choices when it comes to diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices.

What are the procedures to begin and break the fast? 

(I’m a little uncomfortable answering this procedure question because if it is printed, it might encourage people to start a fast on their own without consulting a doctor beforehand).  I can say that when breaking a fast, do it slowly.  It usually takes about 4 days to get back to eating normally.  Usually starts with vegetables, then adding in fruit, then small portions of regular meals, then can start eating normally on fourth day.  The longer you fast, the longer it takes to break the fast.  This is where the doctor needs to be on-board.  These 4 days of breaking the fast is some of the hardest and vital parts of the fast as it is slowly introducing food back in the system. The most important thing is to no overeat when the fast is over.
Can a person undergoing medication take a fast?
This depends on the medication.  Most medications will be fine to fast with, but there are instances where taking medication while fasting is very dangerous and could be deadly.  For instance, taking insulin for diabetes while fasting could result in hypoglycemia, which can cause dizziness, unconsciousness, or even death.  I have to emphasize that seeing a doctor before starting a fast is vitally important.
How much awareness do general public have about fasting therapy?
Not much awareness at all.  Most people don’t fast or even understand why someone would fast, but they also don’t realize the benefits that can be had from fasting. Fasting is an underutilized therapy that has the ability to help the patient feel better in the long run.  But, then again, fasting also puts stress on the body in not having easily accessible nutrients flowing through the gut at all times.
Do people come to you asking for fasting therapy or you recommend it?
Both.  Most of the time I recommend it because it has the ability to help the patient out.  But, I always do a physical exam, run blood labs, and take into account the patient’s general constitution before I make the suggestion.  If the patient is emaciated, I don’t recommend fasting.  If the patient has any extreme weakness or degeneration, I don’t recommend fasting.  If the kidneys aren’t functioning properly, I don’t recommend fasting.  If the patient is low count in basic blood labs, I don’t recommend fasting.  If the patient is elderly or pregnant or a child, I don’t recommend fasting.  If the patient has problems with their nervous system or heart disease or difficulty breathing, I don’t recommend fasting.
Can an obese person of 40 yr, who has never fasted, successfully undergo fasting therapy?
Yes, but as stated above, the proper blood labs and physical exam must be done beforehand to determine whether this person is a candidate for fasting therapy.  There are many instances where middle-aged obese people have great success in fasting and reap some incredible benefits.  They can lose a significant amount of weight within days of starting a fast.  But, it does take the patient’s dedication to endure the fast.  Fasting can be extremely difficult for people, especially the first few days.  You oftentimes feel like you’re starving, get dizzy, have low energy, get headaches, but those feeling do pass most of the time by the third day.
About the Doctor
Dr MathreDr. Matthew Brennecke, MS, ND is a board certified naturopathic doctor practicing at the Rocky Mountain Wellness Clinic in Fort Collins, Colorado.  He prefers using natural therapies to pharmaceutical medication when possible, so as to limit side effects to treatment and sees a variety of patients with a range of chronic conditions.  He can be reached at Twitter@RockyDocFOCO or on Rockymountaindoc@yahoo.com
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Solar Power: A wonderful boon

The survival of life, human culture and the very existence of our planet Earth largely depend on developing and using renewable and nonconventional sources of energy. The first source of such a form of energy that comes to people in their right minds is solar energy. There are a wide variety of reasons why solar power is most beneficial to humankind. The Sun’s light and heat make life possible on the Earth. As such, energy from the Sun is the only source of every other form of energy including nuclear power. Read about a Weird Museum which has a rare collection of toilets included solar powered commodes.

solar power

Solar energy is green energy. It is virtually free from pollution. The use of solar power does not result in the emission of gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide which are deleterious to humans and other living beings in several ways. Moreover, solar power causes no noise pollution since solar panels and other devices have no moving components.

Solar energy is perennial albeit variations. On cloudy and winter days solar energy is a less efficient form of power. However, the emergence of photo voltaic technology means that we are not solely dependent on heat from the Sun. Even on cloudy and winter days we get light from the Sun. Photo voltaic technology is capable of converting solar radiation into electricity.

Solar power is useful in operating several devices such as heaters, cookers, lamps and calculators. Manufacturers of mobile phones, laptop computers and other gadgets are exploring how solar energy can be used for the functioning of these tools.

Using solar energy for cooking is advantageous. Depending on firewood will result in the destruction of forests, food chain and biodiversity. Besides, the development of technology to improve the quality of wood means that we can use rubber trees and pine trees as good sources for the construction of buildings and the manufacture of furniture.

The successful use of solar energy for street lighting in several parts of Africa deserves attention. This is possible by the use of solar batteries. By using solar batteries we are able to enjoy the benefit of solar technology at night. Even though these batteries are heavy and need to be replaced at present; scientists are working for the development of better battery technology.

The use of solar energy gives people energy independence. Setting up of solar panels on rooftops of houses and offices will make people energy independent. Putting solar panels on rooftops is expensive. Nevertheless, thanks to constant efforts to improve solar devices, it is coming down considerably. After establishing solar devices; people do not have to bother about paying electricity bills. In addition, solar technology needs little or no maintenance. Solar panels will continue to supply electricity for thirty plus years. Undoubtedly, the technology will become better in the days to come.

Solar power is capable of serving energy needs of people living in remote areas. People in several parts of the world have no access to power grids. The need not to depend on power cables is a major advantage of solar energy.

In today’s world, we are dependent on fossil fuels for our energy needs. These sources are dwindling rapidly. We are unable to get energy from these conventional sources of energy for another century. A conscious consideration of this reality will make us come to the right conclusion that solar power is the most dependable source of energy for the sustenance of our planet and life on it in the days and years to come.

About the Author:  
swami  sirSwaminathan Pillai is A senior academic and Journalist with specialties in history, politics, current affairs, health, disability and social issues. Well developed multi-media skills & experience in Broadcast Journalism. He is congenitally blind who with his wealth of knowledge has enlightened many.

 DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.