08/08/2016 4:51 PM IST | Updated 08/08/2016 7:22 PM IST

We Regret To Inform You That Cow Dung Will Not Save You From Radiation

Claims to the contrary are unadulterated bullshit.

Ajay Verma / Reuters
A woman makes cow dung cakes at Bahlolpur village in the northern Indian state of Punjab February 10, 2010. REUTERS/Ajay Verma (INDIA - Tags: SOCIETY)

In a recent interview with The Indian Express, Shankar Lal, president of Akhil Bharatiya Gau Sewa Sangh, an outfit associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), claimed that dung produced by Indian cows has the power to absorb harmful radiation.

The 76-year-old sang praises of both cow dung and cow urine generously. "We drink cow urine and have extracts from her dung, which has kept me healthy even at the age of 76," he said. "We make pregnant women eat cow dung and urine paste to ensure a normal delivery. We treat all deadly diseases with cow dung." However, he insisted that the gobar (cow dung) and mutra (urine) should be of a desi cow, "not western monsters like Jersey or Holstein". Their dung and milk, he claimed, "are nothing but poison".

While cow urine and dung may possibly have antiseptic properties, Lal made a more intriguing case for the use of the latter. He said he applies "fresh cow dung" on the back of his mobile phone to protect himself from harmful radioactive emissions from it. "If cow dung can treat cancer, why can't it save us from a phone's microwaves?" Thus went his logic.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and its champions have already made an industry out of shuddh desi bovine excreta and urine. From soaps to toothpaste to laxative and beauty cream — the gifts of these substances are many. Cow dung, from which biogas is generated, has been used to produce energy to charge cellphones, but its capacity to absorb radiation is unheard of—at least in the soundly scientific world.

A report in The Times of India in 2011 quoted a physicist, K.N. Uttam, who had worked with the Ministry of Science and Technology as well as the Ministry of Human Resource Development, as saying that cow dung can absorb alpha, beta and gamma rays. This, according to him, is the reason why millions of rural houses have cow dung cakes plastered on their outer walls.

His claim, though, is not based on real scientific evidence. Rather, its origins are as mythical, and as dubious, as the fraudulent "system" of Vedic Mathematics.

Speaking to Huffington Post India, scientist Virander S. Chauhan, former director of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, said there was no basis behind the claim that cow dung can protect people from radiation.

"In order to prove any such theory, someone has to first conduct an experiment. Apply cow dung to one sample of mobile phones and measure their emissions against phones that are not coated with dung," he said. "Then publish the results in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Only then can one say anything on the matter."

Physicist Vikram Soni, Professor Emeritus at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, and author of the book Naturally: Tread Softly on the Planet, agreed with Chauhan. "Emissions from the digestive tracts of cows include methane and other greenhouse gases, but cows are not known to produce dung that can absorb radiation," he told Huffington Post. "While cow dung might have insulating properties, which is the reason for it to be applied on walls of houses, and even antiseptic features, it is unlikely to absorb radioactivity," he said.

Like Chauhan, he also said that such a claim should not be made without verifying it first through clinical experiments.

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