Arnika warned about contamination of foodstuffs by toxic substances

30.3.2005 - Prague

Three giant hens marched today the Charles Bridge. They rolled big eggs in front of them, and were accompanied by a procession of Arnika activists, who carried a transparent "Toxics Free Future", and distributed information leaflets to the passers by. An unusual post-Easter happening of the Arnika Association looked like that today. Its purpose has been to warn about alarming results of tests of hen eggs from the whole world, carried out recently. The action was a part of a worldwide project, on which Arnika co-operates with the international network IPEN (1).

The IPEN network, in co-operation with Arnika, commissioned analyses of the content of toxic substances in eggs from 18 countries from five continents, within the framework of the international campaign „Keep the Promise – Eliminate POPs“. The analyses were carried out in Czech laboratory Axys Varilab, The scientists analysed the eggs for persistent organic pollutants (2) - especially polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) (3), dioxins (4) or hexachlorobenzene (5). These substances are considered to be the most dangerous compounds for human health, and our country is bound to eliminate them by the Stockholm Convention (6). The tests proved that the Czech Republic gained a sad primacy in the content of hexachlorobenzene and polychlorinated biphenyls (7). „All Czech eggs exceeded the newly proposed European limit for hexachlorobenzene. Its content in eggs in the Czech Republic was even higher than in Russia or Egypt, where higher environmental burden could be expected because of extensive industrial activities with worse technologies,“ said Jindřich Petrlík, DSc, chairman of Arnika and co-ordinator of the campaign „Keep the Promise – Eliminate POPs“.

The highest amounts of hexachlorobenzene were found in samples from Liberec (250 ng/g of fat), followed by samples from heavily industrially utilised area in Russia - Gorbatovka (68.9 ng/g of fat). Another sample from Liberec was on the third place, and eggs from Lysá nad Labem were on the fourth worst place. Countries like India, Mexico or Bulgaria followed only after that. The highest content of polychlorinated biphenyls in the tested samples was found in eggs from Lysá nad Labem.

„It is obvious that persistent organic pollutants have already entered the food chain,“ said Jindřich Petrlík, DSc. „It is high time for governments of signatory countries to the Stockholm Convention to start immediately taking all steps necessary to decrease the risk for people, which already exists, and to prevent future polluting of the environment by toxic chemicals. Therefore, we call upon the government of the Czech Republic, as well as upon all relevant authorities, to observe the text of the Stockholm Convention, and to keep the promise of minimising and eliminating the persistent organic pollutants from the environment,“ informed Petrlík.

The procession of Arnika activists went from the Charles Bridge to the Chamber of Deputies. The Chairman of the Chamber, Mr. Lubomír Zaorálek, received here the petition Toxics Free Future II, which had been so far signed by 9,233 people, including mayors and representatives of a number of cities and villages. The aim of the petition is to push through a new effective chemical legislation within the European Union (REACH), ensure free access of the public to information on toxic substances, replace dangerous materials and stop releases of toxic substances. Together with the petition, Lubomír Zaorálek received, from Arnika, also the results of the analyses and an appeal asking the deputies to ensure effective elimination of toxic substances from the environment.

The results of the analyses will be received also by all delegates of the individual countries who will attend the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention. The Conference will take place in the beginning of May in Uruguay. The final report of the project will be received also by high representatives of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and World Health Organisation (WHO).

 


(1)    IPEN – International POPs Elimination Network is an international network of non-governmental organisations which co-operate on pushing through the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants. The aim of this network is prohibition and elimination of these substances (for example aldrin, dieldrin, endrin, DDT, chlordane, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, mirex, toxaphene, PCBs and dioxins). The network was formed at the same time with the beginning of the process of preparation of the international convention on elimination of persistent organic pollutants in the spring of 1998. Arnika has been its member organisation from the very beginning. At present, over 350 non-governmental organisations from the whole world are taking part in the work of IPEN. In addition to analysis of the samples of eggs, IPEN is simultaneously working also at preparing expert opponent report against incineration of wastes containing POPs, and prepares observations to the proposed Guidelines on BAT (best available techniques) and BEP (best environmental practices). These Guidelines, which will be, most probably, approved by the Conference of the Stockholm Convention, will serve as a basis  for the individual national governments during preparation and implementation of the “National implementation plans” for elimination of POPs in individual countries of the world.

 


(2)    POPs – persistent organic pollutants - are substances which persist in the environment for a long time, and show bioaccumulative properties, which means that they accumulate in living organisms, in particular in their adipose tissues. They cause disorders of hormonal and reproductive systems, some of them are carcinogenic, others harm fetuses. These substances include, for example: DDT, lindane, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), hexachlorobenzene, and others.

(3)    Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were produced since 1930 as chemical substances for industrial use. PCBs are highly stable chlororganic substances. They do not dissolve in water, but they bind to fats. They were used in oils for transformers and condensers, in paints, plasticizers, but also, for example, in carbon papers and in inks. Even in lipsticks. After their negative impact on human health had been found, their production was banned also in the former Czechoslovakia (in Chemko Strážské in Slovakia) in 1984. Up to now, they are present especially in transformers and condensers, and they are probably the most problematic substances in wastes. Already in very low concentrations, they damage hormonal and immune systems of humans. People who came regularly into contact with high concentrations of PCBs suffered so called chloracne, liver dysfunction, breathing problems and a number of further health problems.

(4)    Dioxins are highly toxic substances, dangerous even in trace concentrations. They accumulate in the adipose tissues of animals. Their concentration in the environment is increased also by small dust particles. A long-term action of dioxins and PCBs results in harm to immune and nerve systems, further in changes of endocrine system (especially thyroid gland) and of reproductive functions. Some studies proved also their impact on decrease of intelligence, decrease of ability to concentrate, and impact on behaviour (hyperactivity of children). Dioxins are substances which accumulate in the body in the long term. (Source: www pages of the State Health Institute - www.chpr.szu.cz - “Dioxins in foodstuffs”)

(5)    Hexachlorobenzene (HCB) was, in the past, produced as pesticide or for technical use, or was formed as an unwanted by-product. Up to the present, it is formed as an intermediate product in Spolchemie in Ústí nad Labem (production of epichlorhydrin, incineration of chlorinated residues). Similarly as dioxins or PCBs, it is formed also as an unintended by product, for example during incineration of chlorinated substances. Its effects on human health are comparable to that of PCBs and dioxins - it negatively affects immune and hormonal systems of humans.

(6)    The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is an international convention, by ratification of which the Czech Republic committed itself to eliminate 12 most toxic substances in the world. These substances include, for example, dioxins (= polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans, PCDD/F), DDT, PCBs, hexachlorobenzene, and others. The Convention became binding for the Czech Republic on May 17, 2004. The text of the Stockholm Convention may be downloaded from the www pages of the Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic (http://www.env.cz/AIS/web-pub.nsf/$pid/MZPKQF6Y247O). The Czech Republic joined the Convention in 2002, and, by this, it committed itself to eliminate these substances from the environment.

(7)    Results of analyses of hen eggs – Content of hexachlorobenzene is stated in nanograms per gram of fat.

 


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