Srinagar: A study by Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) has revealed that rock salt imported through cross-LoC trade from Pakistan may increase the risk of goitre disease. But according to the traders involved in LoC trade, no salt is imported from Pakistan.
The study conducted by the SKIMS’s Endocrinology Department on ‘Goitre and Urinary Iodine Excretion Survey in School children of Kashmir Valley’ says, “With the opening of cross-border trade with Pakistan, Kashmir Valley may no longer be a landlocked area where entry of non-iodized salt could be banned at its only entry point—the Jawahar Tunnel. Already, many trade items are finding their way into Kashmir, including much fancied red-rock salt, which is essentially a non-iodized salt.”
Prominent endocrinologist and former Director SKIMS, Dr Abdul Hamid Zargar, who supervised the study, when asked by Kashmir Reader how Pakistani salt figured in the research when it is not on the trading list, said, “Actually, I wanted to convey that the Pakistani rock salt should not get imported here again, as it is non-iodized and may increase the risk of iodine deficiency in Kashmir again.”
When prodded further that the study clearly mentions “much fancied red-rock salt of Pakistan” as a cause for re-emergence of goitre, Dr Zargar said, “I saw one truck of rock salt coming from Pakistan in 2008 when cross-LoC trade began. We discussed its impact on general population in SKIMS. The study report has been prepared in that connection.”
However, general secretary of the Cross-LoC Traders Association, Hilal Turki while talking to Kashmir Reader said that no salt is imported from Pakistan. “Salt does not figure in the trading list and presently no salt of any type is imported into Jammu and Kashmir through cross-LoC trade,” Turki said.
Turki said that though there is a huge demand for Pakistani rock salt in the Valley, the authorities are not allowing it. “For the past five years we have been trying to convince the authorities to allow the import of salt into the state but they do not agree,” he said.
General Secretary of LoC Traders Association Chakanda Bagh, Poonch, Sardar Kishen Singh also said that salt was never traded in through this barter trade. “The Pakistani salt is not traded though it could have been one of the primary trading commodities. We have however called for its inclusion in the new list that has been forwarded to the government of India and we are hopeful that its trade along with other items will be approved.”
Meanwhile, the SKIMS study further says that prevalence of goitre has showed marked decrease from 45 percent in 1995 to 3.5 percent in 2013 after the implementation of Iodine Deficiency Disorders control program.
“Our results show that within the age range of 5–15 years, 3.79 percent of schoolchildren in Kashmir Valley have goitre. In 1995, we reported that more than half of the Kashmiri population was iodine deficient, with 45% of schoolchildren having goitre,” the study said.
The study is the cross-sectional survey covering 9576 schoolchildren, aged 5-15 years, including 5988 children between the age group of 6-12 years.
Giving further breakdown of the findings, the study reveals that among 9576 students studied, 363 had different grades of goitre with an overall prevalence of 3.79%; 280 had grade-1 goitre and 83 had grade-2 goitre, while the prevalence of goitre was found to be 3.6% in boys and 4.1% in girls.
“The present study demonstrated an impressive improvement in iodine nutrition in Kashmir Valley, one and a half decade after the real implementation of universal salt iodization (USI),” the study added.
The study said that in 1995 only one third of the population was consuming iodized salt. “Therefore a massive campaign was initiated for implementation of existing national Iodine Deficiency Disorders control program by mobilizing the government machinery and civil society, reinforcing an official ban on availability and sale of non-iodized salt in Kashmir,” the study said.
The SKIMS report further says that the problem may also get aggravated due to urbanization as more people may start using packaged, processed and restaurant foods “because iodized salt is not used in the food industry, the risk of re-emergence of iodine deficiency remains high.”
The study stresses the need for continued surveillance and timely periodic surveys to know the iodine status of Kashmiri population.