17 February 2005
S. Gomathi, an 8-year old child studying in the 3rd Grade at Eachangadu school, vomited and fainted on 16 February after she was exposed to emissions from a nearby factory. According to Ms. Jyoti, headmistress of the school, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on 15 and 16 February, she had to close all windows to protect the children from the intensity of the air pollution. The child had had breakfast that morning, and weakness due to hunger is not a likely reason for the loss of consciousness.
For three hours, a strong smell of “fertilizer, cow dung, and human excreta” persisted even after shutting all doors and windows. On 15 February, 45 children were in school, and 44 children were in school on 16 February.
The children reported a vomiting sensation, headache, eyes itching, and burning. Some children and the teacher also reported feeling thirsty.
Jyoti said she felt very tired after the first days exposure. On the second day, “I did not even want to eat anything. I had no hunger and loose motion,” she said.
The teacher reported a slight smell on 17 February. She said she is very worried for the children, and does not know how to react in the case of a serious incident.
A teacher-educator from Sarva Siksha Abhiyan who was visiting the school also cut short his visit and left because of the odour.
The smell of human excreta is characteristic of SPIC Pharma, a factory South of Eachangadu. SPIC Pharma is the company that was caught dumping and burning date-expired medicines near Chennai. [See SPIC story]