Daily Current Affairs : 1st and 2nd May 2022

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Anabolic Steroids
  2. EV Vehicle Battery fires
  3. Heatwaves
  4. Facts for Prelims

1 . Anabolic Steroids

Context : From two Tokyo Olympians being banned to Noida Police seizing fake drugs and supplements worth Rs 2 crore, anabolic steroids have often been in news, although not for the right reasons. More than being a drug prescribed by doctors, anabolic steroids are usually used by bodybuilders. We take a look at what anabolic steroids are, why they are used, and how they are different from the ones prescribed by doctors.

What are anabolic steroids?

  • Anabolic steroids are essentially lab-made versions of the male hormone testosterone and have a similar effect of increasing muscle mass as the natural hormone does. It also increases male characteristics in a person, such as facial hair and a deeper voice.
  • These are, however, very different from the steroids that are prescribed by doctors for inflammations, several autoimmune diseases, or to suppress the body’s immune system during a Covid-19 infection. These medicines are called corticosteroids and are lab-made molecules that mimic the action of the hormone called cortisol that controls the body’s stress response, metabolism, and inflammation.
  • Unlike corticosteroids, anabolic steroids have limited medical use. Anabolic steroids are mainly misused by athletes and sportspersons nowadays.

What are they prescribed for?

  • The anabolic steroids have a very limited medical role and are mainly used by doctors to help patients gain weight after a severe illness or injury. It could also be prescribed in small doses to the elderly to build muscle mass and in some cases also helps to treat anaemia.
  • Doctors may also prescribe the medicine to men who have low levels of natural testosterone. Misuse can cause damage to the heart and kidneys, and lead to anger issues.

How are anabolic steroids misused?

  • The anabolic steroids are misused mainly by those who want to bulk up as it helps increase one’s muscle mass. A 2019 study from Bhubaneshwar of anabolic steroid users showed that only one of the 74 participants was a professional bodybuilder, with 18.9 per cent being students, indicating that it is used by people other than professional athletes.
  • Although no concrete estimate exists of the number of people using the drug across India, a 2018 study from Jammu and Kashmir found that 7.1 per cent of athletes used it.

What are the health impacts?

  • Use of anabolic steroids in the short-term can cause acne and hairfall. Extended misuse of the substance can also lead to gynaecomastia (growth of breasts in men) and erectile dysfunction.
  • In women, it can lead to growth of facial hair. It may also cause extreme anger, paranoia, and impaired judgement.
  • Long-term use can lead to kidney disease and even failure, liver damage and tumours, enlarged heart, and high blood pressure. It can also lead to stunted growth in teenagers.

2 . EV Battery issue

Context : The Union government has constituted an expert panel to probe the recent series of battery explosions in electric vehicles (EVs). Manufacturers such as Okinawa and Pure EV have recalled some batches of electric scooters after their vehicles caught fire.

Why is the world poised to transition to electric vehicles?

  • The growing concern over climate change has led to global efforts to electrify the transportation sector. In parallel, cost of Li-ion (Lithium-ion) battery technology has decreased by a staggering order of magnitude in the past decade.
  • The convergence of these two factors has resulted in a unique time in our history where we are at the cusp of a dramatic transition in the transportation sector, with electric vehicles poised to replace petrol vehicles.
  • Governments providing incentives to usher in the transition and private industry ramping up plans for capturing the market.
  • However, Li-ion batteries are complex devices requiring a level of sophistication that can takes years to perfect. Hurrying the development of this complex technology without careful safeguards can lead to increasing safety incidents, as evidenced recently on Indian roads.

What goes into a Li-ion battery?

  • Every Li-ion battery consists of three active components: the anode, typically graphite; the cathode, typically based on a nickel, cobalt, and manganese-based oxide; and an electrolyte, typically a salt of lithium in an inorganic solvent.
  • Battery manufacturing is a complex operation involving forming sheets of the anode and cathode and assembling them into a sandwich structure held apart by a thin separator.
  • Battery cells are assembled into modules and then further assembled into packs. Li-ion batteries require tight control on the state of charge and the temperature of operation to enhance safety and increase usable life, achieved by adding multiple sensors. Packs are designed to ensure uniform temperature profile with minimal thermal variation during operation. Ensuring robust detection, coupled with battery management systems that interpret the data and change operation based on changes to the batteries state, remains critically important in enhancing battery performance.
  • Battery packs are integrated into the vehicle in unique formfactors depending on the design of the vehicle. The location of the battery should protect it from external penetration, ensure passenger safety while talking into consideration the overall weight distribution. Close interaction between vehicle manufacturers and battery manufacturers is essential so that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
  • There are multiple trade-offs in this complex ecosystem: engineering higher safety often results in higher costs and lower driving range. In this competitive landscape where companies are vying for market share, a race to the bottom can compromise safety.

What causes battery fires?

  • While Li-ion batteries are complex, over the last three decades numerous companies have perfected the art of manufacturing high-quality cells and integrating them into vehicles with minimal safety concerns.
  • The energy density of petrol is five hundred times that of a typical Li-ion battery, therefore safety should be manageable if robust controls are in place. However, batteries do store energy in a small package and if the energy is released in an uncontrolled fashion, the thermal event can be significant.
  • Battery fires, like other fires, occur due to the convergence of three parts of the “fire triangle”: heat, oxygen, and fuel.
    • If an adverse event such as a short circuit occurs in the battery, the internal temperature can raise as the anode and cathode release their energy through the short. This, in turn, can lead to a series of reactions from the battery materials, especially the cathode, that release heat in an uncontrolled manner, along with oxygen.
    • Such events also rupture the sealed battery further exposing the components to outside air and the second part of the fire triangle, namely, oxygen.
    • The final component of the triangle is the liquid electrolyte, which is flammable and serves as a fuel. The combination leads to a catastrophic failure of the battery resulting in smoke, heat, and fire, released instantaneously and explosively.
  • The trigger for such events can be a result of internal shorts (like a manufacturing defect that results in sharp objects penetrating the separator), external events (an accident leading to puncture of the cell and shorting of the electrodes), overcharging the battery which leads to heat releasing reactions on the cathode (by a faulty battery management system that does not shut down charging despite the battery achieving its designed charge state), or bad thermal design at the module and pack level (by not allowing the battery internal heat to be released). Any of these triggers may cascade into a significant safety incident.

Are battery fires inevitable?

  • Over the past three decades, Li-ion batteries have proved to be extremely safe, with the industry increasing controls as safety incidents have surfaced. Safety is a must and is an important consideration that battery and vehicle manufacturers can design for at multiple levels from the choice of battery material to designs at the cell, pack, and vehicle level.
  • Preventing fires requires breaking the fire triangle. Battery cathodes are a leading cause of the heat release. Some cathodes, such as ones with lower nickel content or moving to iron phosphate, can increase safety. Tightly controlled manufacturing will prevent accidental shorts in the cells, eliminating a leading cause of fires. Many companies now add a ceramic layer on the separator to mechanically prevent shorts. Sensing the state of the battery and integrating this data into sophisticated battery management systems is an important aspect of design. Protecting the cell with robust thermal management is critical, especially in India where ambient temperatures are high. Finally, battery packs need to be protected from external penetration.
  • Any large-scale manufacturing process inevitably has a certain percentage of defects; therefore, such steps are needed to minimise the number of adverse events.
  • Long-term changes are also under way. Safety remains a concern for Li-ion manufacturers worldwide especially as cell sizes become larger for applications such as solar-connected storage. Companies are developing internal “switches” that turn off parts of the battery that undergo thermal events to stop them at their inception. Research is now underway to replace the flammable liquid electrolyte with a solid electrolyte to eliminate one part of the fire triangle. A similar thread of research is the development of nonflammable liquid electrolytes. All these changes promise to remove the threat of battery fires as the roll out of mass electrification takes place.
  • Engineering safety requires commitment from all parts of the battery supply chain and tight integration between vehicle companies and battery companies. Further, regulators play an important role, providing the testing and certification needed to ensure that technology innovations perform at the level that is promised. Li-ion batteries are not forgiving of shoddy engineering and approaches that rely on cutting corners. Companies with tightly controlled manufacturing with years of experience can maintain the number of adverse safety incidents to a minimum. Such batteries maybe more expensive, but safety should not be “just another” metric. Rather, ensuring safety should be the priority for manufacturers.

3 . Heatwaves

Context: India is in the throes of an unusually long series of heatwaves that began in the end of March and scorched north India for most of April. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said April was the hottest in northwest India in 122 years. It has also been an unusually hot April — with temperatures touching above 40°C — in large parts of Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.

How widespread is the heatwave?

  • Records from IMD suggest that the average maximum temperature till April 27 was 35.7°C, the highest in five years for this month. In Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, and Gujarat, the average maximum temperature in April 2022 so far has been the highest since 1951; while it has been the second highest in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana. In most of these States, the temperature has been consistently above 42°C and around 5-6 degrees above normal for this time of the year.
  • Latest IMD forecasts say heat wave conditions prevail in many parts of Punjab, northwest Rajasthan and Vidarbha, Maharashtra. It’s also unusually hot in parts of Himachal Pradesh, west Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Gangetic West Bengal and Odisha. Maximum temperatures were 43-46 degree Celsius over most parts of Rajasthan, Vidarbha, Madhya Pradesh and east Uttar Pradesh, in many parts of Gujarat and interior Odisha; in some parts of central Maharashtra and in isolated pockets of Bihar, Jharkhand and interior Gangetic West Bengal.

How are heatwaves defined?

  • A heatwave is declared when the maximum temperature is over 40°C and at least 4.5 notches above normal.
  • A severe heatwave is declared if the departure from normal temperature is more than 6.4 degrees, according to the IMD.
  • Based on absolute recorded temperatures, a heatwave is declared when an area logs a maximum temperature of 45°C. A severe heatwave is declared if the maximum temperature crosses 47 degrees.

Is climate change responsible?

  • The heat-trapping consequences of global warming imply that climate extremes such as heatwaves are expected to rise in frequency.
  • Instances of extreme rainfall, as well as longer rainless spells are expected, according to assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  • The main reason for the scorching heat in the northern parts of the country is lack of rainfall. Usually, periods of high temperature are punctuated by periodic episodes of rain but this was largely absent during March and April. Ironically, April also saw maximum instances of extreme rainfall since 2018 though it was concentrated in the south and north-eastern India.
  • The rain-bearing western disturbances originate because of temperature gradients between the northernmost parts of the globe and the latitudes passing through West Asia. Weaker gradients mean weaker rains. This March and April, cooler than normal conditions in the Pacific Ocean failed to aid rainfall in north India.

What impact do heatwaves have over India?

  • Research through the years shows that the number of heatwave days in India is increasing every decade. From 413 in 1981-90 to 575 in 2001-10 and 600 in 2011-20, the number of days that see extremely hot days is persistently increasing at 103 weather stations.
  • Some parts along eastern India, such as Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha, also register higher humidity along with high temperatures, leading to the rise in a condition called ‘wet bulb’ temperature, that at its mildest can cause extreme discomfort and at its worst cause dehydration and death.
  • Heatwaves have killed more than 17,000 people in 50 years in India, according to a research study by IMD scientists. However, the intensity and length of heatwaves don’t have a direct connection to India’s monsoon that sets in over Kerala in June.

What is being done to buffer against high temperatures?

  • Over the years, forecast systems have improved that allow heatwave warnings to be disseminated via electronic channels and phones instantaneously. Many State governments across the country have declared school holidays; some have highlighted the dangers of working outdoors during the day. Many State governments award monetary compensation for deaths linked to heatwaves.

4 . Facts for Prelims


  • Autism, also called autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a complicated condition that includes problems with communication and behavior. It can involve a wide range of symptoms and skills. ASD can be a minor problem or a disability that needs full-time care in a special facility.
  • People with autism have trouble with communication. They have trouble understanding what other people think and feel. This makes it hard for them to express themselves, either with words or through gestures, facial expressions, and touch.
  • People with autism might have problems with learning. Their skills might develop unevenly. For example, they could have trouble communicating but be unusually good at art, music, math, or memory. Because of this, they might do especially well on tests of analysis or problem-solving.

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