The Gist of Science Reporter: May 2016
Tragedy on the Icy Heights
Lance Naik Hanumanthappa, the last surviving brave Indian soldier, finally
breathed his last on 11th February 2016 after battling for his life for almost
An avalanche had buried the soldier’s camp along with nine of
his colleagues on the icy heights of the Siachen Glacier on February 3. While
the lives of his camp calleagues were snuffed out before rescuers reached them,
soldier Hanumanthappa was rescued alive after being buried under 35 feet of snow
for six days. However, the soldier lost the struggle for his life two days
Surviving at a height of around 19000 feet on the Siachen
glacier is all about braving the odds and fighting the elements of nature. It is
physically and medically not possible to live in those conditions beyond three
months. Our brave soldiers stationed on the icy heights have to battle the
extreme cold, in which a bath means a sponge bath and as simple a task as
walking is a torture. Snow blizzards further reduce the temperature to as low as
60 degrees below zero. Snowstorms on the Siachen glacier can last for as long as
three weeks and winds here can touch speeds of 100 mph in no time. Avalanches
are like death from the skies. The avalanches at Siochen are more dangerous as
they are solid blocks of ice.
The extreme cold means the food intake is drastically reduced
which means soldiers end up losing body weight drastically. With the lack of
oxygen at those heights breathing is a big problem. Only 10% of the oxygen is
available at those heights as compared to the plains.
Frostbite and high-altitude pulmonary edema are other real
dangers. Pulmonary edema is a condition where fluid gets accumulated in the
lungs, making it difficult to breathe, and may also lead to coughing up blood.
High-altitude cerebral edema (HACE) is another medical condition in which the
brain swells with fluid because of the physiological effects of travelling to a
It involves disorientation, lethargy, and nausea among other
symptoms. Soldiers are also at the risk of getting frostbite if their bare skin
touches any metal object, such as the gun trigger, for more than 15 seconds.
Fainting spells and pounding headaches are frequent.
Siachen is not for ordinary mortals. It is a place that only a few brave
Indian soldiers can dare to venture. Our hearts go out to these brave souls who
patrol the country’s borders at such great heights.
Adverse Impact of Pharmaceuticals on the Environment
There are an estimated 1500 active pharmaceutical
formulations currently being used worldwide. Few studies have been conducted on
the environmental damage these drugs might have on our aquatic and soil
organisms, avian and mammalian wildlife and even on how they affect humans, when
released into the air and water we breathe.
The plankton present in t e world’s oceans and krill are the
best examples of the starting point of food chains that include giant Blue
whales and finally end up in humans and their animals. The impact of drugs on
the environment can be gauged from the discovery by Dr. Lindsay Oaks and his
team in 2003 of diclofenac, a common inflammatory drug administrated to
livestock, which caused the decline of vultures that picked it up from the
carcasses of animals treated with the drug, widely used in India since the
Apical endpoints refer to traditional, directly measured
whole-organism outcomes of .exposure ‘in vivo’ tests, generally death,
reproductive failure, or developmental dysfunction, observable effects of
exposure to a toxic chemical in a test animal and the effects reflect relatively
gross changes in animals after substantial durations of exposure. It also
measures an observable outcome in a whole organism, such as a clinical sign or
pathologic state that is indicative of a disease state that can result from
exposure to a toxicant.
The endpoints include lethality, carcinogenicity,
immunological responses, organ effects, developmental and reproductive effects,
etc. The horrific results of the Bhopal tragedy and endosulfan victims have been
highlighted in the media. But the adverse environmental effects of common drugs
have been given little publicity or serious study so farr.