| PROJECT LEAD-FREE AND ANEMIA
SCREENING IN INDIA
The George Foundation launched
in January 1997 a lead and anemia screening program in India (Project
Lead-Free). The project was initiated in Bangalore and vicinity, and
subsequently expanded to several other major cities across India. Consistent
with the Foundation's mission to serve the welfare of children, especially
those who are victims of poverty and/or those who suffer from adverse
environmental conditions that are beyond their control, Project Lead-Free
focused on one of the growing problems that has serious consequences
for a generation of India's future work force.
A non-profit charity organization, Friends of Lead-Free Children Inc.
(headquarters in New York City), which currently has lead treatment
projects in several developing countries (including programs in the
Dominican Republic; Jakarta, Indonesia; and in Bangkok, Thailand), assisted
The George Foundation in launching the program.
Project Lead-Free was conducted via arrangements with six medical
centers in the city of Bangalore (St. John's Medical College and Hospital,
Baptist Mission Hospital, Lake Side Medical Center & Hospital, Cantonment
X'Ray and Laboratory, KempeGowda Institute of Medical Sciences, and
M.S. Ramaiah Medical College) which have clinics at each site. One of
the clinics operates a mobile unit to access locations throughout the
city, such as schools, industrial areas, etc. The George Foundation
provided equipment and supplies, support and coordination in the activities
of these clinics including giving materials for educating the public
on lead poisoning and anemia, and making arrangements for repairs of
equipment. The goal of the project was to test up to 25,000 children,
pregnant women, and emergency referrals for lead poisoning. The project
also emphasized prevention of lead poisoning for the general population.
Project Lead-Free initially focused on the city of Bangalore and subsequently
broadened to five other cities: Madras, Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta, and
Hyderabad. Screening was dramatically increased after the first year.
The clinics that participated from these cities are: In Mumbai: K.J.
Somaiya Medical College, The Bandra Holy Family Hospital Society, Guru
Nanak Hospital; in Hyderabad: National Institute of Nutrition; in Delhi:
Indira Gandhi E.S.I. Hospital; in Calcutta: R.G. Kar Medical College,
Medical College Calcutta, Dr. B.C. Roy Memorial Hospital for Children;
in Madras: K.J. Hospital; in Vellore: Christian Medical College.
The main objectives of Project Lead-Free are as follows:
Implementation of the Project
- To target children between one and six years of age, pregnant women,
and emergency referrals from doctors and hospitals for testing and
treating elevated levels of lead.
- To educate the community on the major health problems associated
with elevated lead levels, the paths of lead exposure in their environment,
and ways they can protect their families from lead exposure.
- To collect hard data on the problem of lead poisoning in India,
which was analyzed for developing appropriate responses. The Foundation
will present the results of Project Lead-Free at the International
Conference to be held after the screening.
The project is expected to have a much wider impact than what the
numbers for testing will suggest; in addition to those who directly
benefit from the program, there are many more -- relatives, friends
and acquaintances of the participants --who will be made aware of the
problems of lead pollution and anemia and how these problems can be
prevented or treated. The ripple effect of such flow of information
together with the education/prevention efforts of the project personnel
can change for the better the health of possibly millions! Furthermore,
the project should serve as an inspiration for others to launch other
public health projects, which in turn could subsequently lead to the
enactment of meaningful environmental laws. The data collected during
the course of the project will aid in the research endeavors of the
medical community. Most importantly, the project will save a whole generation
of children whose physical and mental development will otherwise be
impaired. This has implications for the country's future development.
The project was initiated in Bangalore and vicinity, and extended
to additional cities by the second year. The project comprises of three
components: testing, treatment and prevention/education.
A nation's most valuable asset is its children. They are the future workforce
and our hope for a better tomorrow. In order to realize their full potential,
children need to grow up in an environment that is safe and supportive.
Unfortunately, science has proven conclusively that large populations exposed
to high levels of lead and/or suffering from chronic anemia can never hope
to achieve their full potential. Many will not finish school and those who
do are likely to be delayed in all areas of learning. They will live as
underachievers in a life of constant struggle.
Lead poisoning is silent and insidious, accumulating in one's body with
its full negative impact not realized until much later in life. We need
to invest in our children now, before it is too late, and The George Foundation's
lead and anemia project will do just that--clear the way for the normal
physical and mental development of children. We have a moral obligation
to inform the public of the potential health hazards of lead and anemia
and to educate them on what they can do themselves to lessen their families'
exposure to lead. Project Lead-Free is likely to inspire others to launch
other public health projects, which in turn will lead to the enactment
and enforcement of meaningful environmental laws.
Admiral O. S. Dawson who was responsible for organizing the screening
effort and gaining awareness among government officials and the general
public, chaired Project Lead-Free. Dr. T. Venkatesh of St. Johns Medical
College and Hospital was responsible for overseeing the laboratory work
for screening and analysis. The project was conceived and developed by
Dr. George with the technical and organizational assistance
of Mr. Steve Null from Friends of Lead-Free, Inc., and co-ordinated with
the help of Dr. Lekha Keister. Bharat Electronics and Air India provided
assistance in repairs and transprotation, respectively. The Foundation
is grateful to all clinics and others that voluntarily participated in