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Pesticide Storage Endangers Tens of Millions in Europe, Central Asia and the former Soviet Union

(Beyond Pesticides October 22, 2009) At least seven million inhabitants of Moldavia and Ukraine are endangered by 10,000 tons of old pesticides. This has been reported by the International HCH and Pesticides Association (IHPA). According to the organization the EU must act as fast as possible to disarm this ‘biggest chemical time bomb of Europe.’ This position was adopted at the closure of the 10th HCH & Pesticides Forum of the IHPA in the Czech Republic.

During the congress, it became known that in the former Kalush factory in the west of Ukraine there is a stockpile of no less than 10,000 ton of superfluous Hexachlorobenzene (HCB). The factory location along the Dniester River makes the situation extremely hazardous: a single flood and the high concentrations of poison would pollute the natural habitat of some seven million people in the west of Ukraine and Moldavia.

Pesticides are threatening tens of millions of people living throughout Europe, Central Asia, and the former Soviet Union, accordding to the statement. There is an estimated 178,000 to 289,000 tons of obsolete pesticides stockpiled throughout the European Union, Southeast Europe, and the former Soviet Union. Ukraine alone has 4,500 storage locations with over 30,000 tons of old pesticides. These pesticides have been prohibited since 2001. The packaging only lasts between five and ten years, so if nothing is done in that time, the pesticides could end up in the water or the soil.

The IHPA reports that it is the rural population which is in danger. The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that by 2050 50 percent of people will die from cancer due to the contamination in food, water and the environment. A major portion will be caused by pesticides. There’s also the threat of major financial losses. The relatively minor Nitrofen scandal (2002) in the former East Germany alone cost a total of 500 million euro.

The IHPA estimates that the stabilization or destruction of all current stocks of superfluous pesticides amounts to one billion euros. In the final statement, the IHPA calls on the European Commission to make haste in developing a solid plan of action, in close cooperation with the EU member states, the non-EU countries covered by the European Neighborhood Policy and the relevant countries in Central Asia.

Hexachlorobenzene (HBC) is a pesticide in the organochlorine family. Most organochlorine pesticides have been banned due to their toxicity, environmental persistence, and tendency to bioaccumulate. Other harmful organochlorine pesticides are endosulfan, DDT and lindane. Some highly reactive organochlorides such as phosgene have even been used as chemical warfare agents.

Organochlorine contaminants bioacummulate and remain preferentially in fat, and concerns about theri long-term effects are well-documented. The use of organochlorines has been controversial for decades because of its cancer causing and neurotoxic properties. Organochlorines interfere with the flux of cations across nerve cell membranes, and the adverse health effects include apprehension, agitation, mental/motor impairment, excitation vomiting, stomach upset, abdominal pain, central nervous system depression, convulsions, muscle weakness and spasm, loss of balance, grinding of the teeth, hyperirritability, violent seizures, increased respiratory rate and/or failure, dermatitis, immunotoxicity, and fetotoxicity.

Exposure to organochlorines is associated with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. The study, “Organochlorines and risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma,” was published in the International Journal of Cancer on December 15, 2007 with new research funded by the British Columbia Cancer Agency and is so far the largest to examine organochlorines in plasma and their link to illness. “Our study helps to provide answers to this puzzle by showing a strong link between these specific environmental contaminants and this particular type of cancer.” Participants with NHL showed much higher levels of environmental contaminants than the control group. Individuals who had the highest total exposure to PCBs showed almost twice the risk of NHL compared to those with the lowest exposure.

While many countries have phased out the use of some types of organochlorines such as the U.S. ban on DDT, persistent DDT, PCBs, and other organochloride residues continue to be found in humans and mammals across the planet many years after production and use have been limited.

Source: IHPA Press Release


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