Temirtau: town where colored snow falls

18.7.2014 - Temirtau / Karagandy Province
Foto: Ondřej Petrlík

Temirtau, considering the level of air quality, is the second most polluted in Kazakhstan (after Shymkent). Territory of the city has been polluted for decades by the waste and emissions from the main city-forming enterprise – steelworks belonging to "ArcelorMittal" group. The size of this industrial giant is comparable to the size of the city itself. The plant is located directly in the city – the closest house is only 500 meters distant.

When driving up to Temirtau, still many miles from the city, the thick smog is clearly visible over the city. It has different colors during hours and days – red, gray, white or black. It is particularly difficult for those who live close to the industrial zone. In such houses is impossible to keep the windows open: the adverse winds immediately fill the rooms with suffocating gas, and the sparkling black dust stays on the window sills, floor and furniture.

The emissions are constantly present in the urban air – sulfur and nitrogen oxides, carbon oxides, hydrogen sulfide, sulfates, etc. But the concentration of these substances, according to the authorities, always stays within the permitted limits. In the reality, average concentration of the phenol in the half year period exceeds the threshold limit value (TLV) in 4 times, particulate matter in 1.6 times, the ammonia in 1.4 times.

Maximum concentration of phenol measured in Temirtau exceeded the TLV in 5 times, hydrogen sulphide in 3.6 times, carbon monoxide – 3.4 times, particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide in 2 times, ammonia – 1.8 times.

After a decline in 2008, the emissions from the steelworks began to grow again (figures in tons).


2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011

329 267 t

302 027 t

335 831 t

286 415 t

306 805 t

307 628 t

317 092 t

In the first half of 2012, compared to the first half of 2011, the level of air pollution in the city of Temirtau did not change.

Kazakhstani research institutions assess the degree of Temirtau contamination by heavy metals as “low." Nevertheless, the results of studies of the same institutions have shown that 40 percent of the soils have a very high level of pollution: it contains potassium, copper and manganese. The most adverse conditions were identified in the north-western and south-eastern parts of the city. This is primarily due to the location of large industrial enterprises.

About 80 % of the population uses water complying with the hygienic requirements, although in some areas of the city, higher concentration of the manganese was found.

The medical examination of the population, covering adults not working in hazardous conditions and children living in the city of Temirtau and village Chkalovo less then 10 years, were quite alarming:

"The index of physical development of the boys is behind age norms. The sexual development level of one third of surveyed girls is below normal. The study of the brain development of adolescents shows the signs of stress. In adults – symptoms of chronic fatigue and depression were observed. Accelerated pace of aging, especially in women."

Ayman Mussina, MD, Professor, Chief Scientific Secretary of the National Center for Occupational Health, 2012

"In the population of the city of Temirtau and village Chkalovo, diseases of the circulatory, respiratory and digestive system dominate, and also diseases of the eyes. Ecological and hygienic environmental factors invoked the development of diseases of the urinary system, thyroid and musculoskeletal system."

Lyazat Ibraeva, head of the Laboratory of Pathology of the dust, 2012

Research confirmed contamination

Czech non-govermental organization Arnika, together with Karaganda EcoMuseum, carried out reserch of the contamination of soil at the children playgrounds of Temirtau in 2013 - 2014. You can read our results here:


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