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Medical geology in India

Article  in  Journal of the Geological Society of India · December 2006

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Mohammad Erfan Ali Mondal

Aligarh Muslim University


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While the term “Medical Geology” or the mere medical geology. The message of the subject, however, has
juxtaposition of the two words ‘Medical’ and ‘Geology’ may not well percolated down to the medical professionals so
be relatively new, the spirit of this discipline was there far. It becomes difficult for them to perceive geology-related
thousands of years ago as is evidenced from the health problems. It may require some more time to fill
observations of Hippocrates and Aristotle regarding the the fissures of this newly born discipline. To accelerate
relationship between environmental factors and human this process, it is of utmost importance that specially
health. Ancient India had a fairly good knowledge of designed course contents of medical geology be included
curative as well as deleterious properties of minerals. But in the curricula of the medical and dental professionals.
the field of medical geology, as a specialization, has In the research front, much value and importance is to be
emerged on a solid footing only recently with many research placed on collaboration with earth scientists on medico-
articles, books (Skinner and Berger, 2003; Selinus, 2005), geological projects.
symposia and workshops exclusively devoted to this In India, things have just started with some seriousness.
discipline. Understanding fully the importance of the Geological Survey of India (GSI) has been identified as a
subject, Commission on Geological Sciences of nodal agency by IUGS for studies on medical geology. GSI
Environmental Planning (COGEOENVIRONMENT) decided has already broken the ice by successfully organizing a
to establish an international working group on medical national workshop on Medical Geology in 2004 and
geology with a view to increase awareness of the issues of publishing the proceeding volume (GSI, 2004). Although
medical geology in 1996. Later UNESCO launched a five- there has been some awareness regarding the importance
year International Geological Correlation Programme on of the subject (Radhakrishna, 2005; Rao, 2003; Selvaraj,
Medical Geology as project IGCP-454. 2000), a lot remains to be done. There is an urgent need to
The subject matter of medical geology encompasses aggressively propagate the subject. It is desirable that all
multi-disciplinary approaches to understand the effects of earth sciences departments include medical geology in their
geological materials (rock, soil, sediment, water, dust, ash, course curricula, and at the same time convince the medical
gaseous emissions) and processes (both geologic and professional about the importance of geology-related health
anthropogenic) on the ecosystem, and ultimately on human hazards. Funding agencies including DST should encourage
health, particularly with an emphasis on effects of exposure and come forward in a big way to support interdisciplinary
to, or deficiency of, trace elements and minerals on health. research projects on medical geology. One of the areas which
Every time we breathe, drink and eat, some amount of mineral need immediate attention is the study of trace elements in
matters and trace elements move from environment into our water, soil, sediment, rock, air, food and animal tissues, and
body. While most of the trace elements are beneficial in to understand their long-term effect on health. It is high
appropriate concentration, deficiency or excess of these can time we rise to occasion and realize that we have miles to go
have serious consequences. before we feel good.
In international scenario, “Medical Geology” has
overcome the initial “identity crisis” and has emerged as a Department of Geology M.E.A. MONDAL
speciality with a broad consensus among the geologists Aligarh Muslim University
about the importance of this new discipline. Many earth Aligarh – 202 002
science departments have already started courses on Email:


GEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF INDIA (2004) Special Publication No.83, SELINUS, O. (2005) Essentials of Medical Geology. Academic Press,
418p 1024p.
RADHAKRISHNA, B.P. (2005) Medical Geology. Jour. Geol. Soc. India, SELVARAJ, K. (2000) Importance of environmental science: medical
v.66, pp.395-400. geology. Curr. Sci., v.79, pp.8-9.
RAO, C.R.M. (2003) Medical Geology - an emerging field: a review. SKINNER, H.C.W. and BERGER, A.R. (2003) Geology and Health,
Jour. Appl. Geoch., v.5,pp.119-131. Oxford University Press, 192p.


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