Study concludes toxic metals in and around Coca Cola Plant

Study concludes toxic metals in and around Coca Cola Plant

A study conducted by Peoples Science Institute, Dehradoon and Hazards center, Delhi has concluded that the pollution of ground water and soil by Coca-Cola plant continue unabated posing health hazards to the communities around the Coca-cola plant in Mehndiganj, Varanasi.

The study measured the concentration of heavy metals in ground water taken from 19 samples within 10 km radius around the Coca-Cola plant. Out of these 19 samples, 75% of the samples have cadmium and chromium in excess of Standard for drinking water (IS-10500: 1991).
Cadmium is highly toxic and can have severe health effects on humans. Cadmium is known to accumulate in the human kidney for a relatively long time, from 20 to 30 years, and, at high doses, is also known to produce health effects on the respiratory system and has been associated with bone disease. More recently, cadmium has been recognized to have a carcinogenic effect on humans.

Chromium is known for its negative health and environmental impact, and its extreme toxicity. It causes allergic and asthmatic reactions, and is carcinogenic. Health effects related to chromium exposure include diarrhoea, stomach and intestinal bleedings, cramps, and liver and kidney damage.

The study shows that the concentration of heavy metals is highest near the Coca-Cola plant. Hundreds of families live in close proximity to the Coca-Cola plant. With ground water as the main source of drinking water, they are directly affected by the pollution of the Coca-Cola plant. The study also shows that the pollution is spreading through ground water flow in surrounding areas around the plant. This has exposed the claim of Coca-Cola that the methods(primarily injection wells) it uses for discarding effluents are safe.

The study of soil samples around this area show the presence of lead, cadmium and chromium. The soil have been affected by both the sludge that Coca-Cola has dumped in the fields and through the effluents that Coca-Cola continues to release in canals nearby. This corroborates the farmer’s allegations of health impacts and loss of crops in the region. A study conducted by the Central Pollution Control Board in 2003 had also revealed that the sludge generated by Mehndiganj, Varanasi plant contains dangerous levels of cadmium, chromium and lead. The tests have shown that the waste contained extremely high levels of lead (up to 538 mg/kg) cadmium (up to 86 mg/kg) and chromium (up to 134 mg/kg effectively making it hazardous waste.

Coca-Cola established its plant in 2000 where it continues to draw lakhs of liters of water from the ground thus depriving the much-needed resource for the communities. From this study, it has been established that what water is not being drawn is being made unusable for the community. Community organizations Lok Samiti Varanasi and National Alliance of Peoples Movement are fighting against Coca-Cola for its exploitation of water in this region. They demand that the license of the plant be cancelled immediately in light of these new findings.

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