Arnika coordinates international project on toxic chemicals

25.2.2005 - PRAGUE

Chicken eggs from 17 countries (1) on five continents will be tested in Czech laboratories to examine the level of contamination with hazardous toxic chemicals. The environmental association ARNIKA leads this unique International project as part of the worldwide campaign ”Keep Promise, Eliminate POPs” Initiated by IPEN in Nairobi last year. Arnika coordinates the center of the Dioxins, PCBs and Waste Working Group of IPEN (= International POPs Elimination Network) (2).

The aim of this project is to find out the extent of contamination with toxic substances in eggs collected throughout many countries of our planet Earth. The eggs will be tested on the most hazardous toxic chemicals –  persistent organic pollutants (POPs) (3). The test results will be known in April and published by many IPEN member organizations including all 20 countries participating in the project. Additionally, the project results will be sent to national delegates attending the Conference of the Stockholm Convention Parties (4) planned for the beginning of May 2005 in Uruguay. Final report will be also passed on to top representatives of UNEP (United Nations Environmental Programme) and the WHO (World Health Organisation ).

”We can hardly presume the test results but based on our past experience POPs are likely to be found in all egg samples. We hope citizens, politicians throughout the world and the delegates of the Conference of Parties to Stockholm Convention  in particular, realise the significance of the threat of the hazardous toxics such as dioxins, PCBs and other persistent pollutants. POPs were found for instance in tissues of polar bears and indigenous people living far from sources of POPs pollution. We would like this project to assist the delegates In acknowledging fully these risks. Consequently, we expect them to adopt stricter measures in frame of fulfilling the the Stockholm Convention goals,” said Martin Skalský, vice-chairman of Arnika.

”Tests for the presence of toxic chemicals such as dioxins are not conducted very often in Turkey as it is very demanding on laboratory equipment. That is why for example Turkish NGOs welcomed the opportunity for their country to participate in the project and find out more about the state of their environment.  Turkish NGOs are aware of the danger associated with the toxic substances and will pressure their government for their faster elimination,” said Hana Kuncova, the project coordinator for Turkey.

The eggs were chosen for this international testing project as they represent widely consumed food product everywhere in the world as well as a symbol of new life.  We should therefore stop contaminating our unborn children and foetus.

Experts from the accredited laboratory Axys-Varilab will examine eggs for the presence and level of contamination by dioxins (5), PCBs (6), HCB  – hexachlorobenzene (7) and lindane (8). Tests on polybrominated diphenylethers – PBDE (9) will be carried out by the Institute of Chemical Technology In Prague. ”Safe eggs should not contain any traces of the above mentioned substances,” added Skalský.


(1) Countries involved in the project:
Belarus, Bulgaria, Cook Islands, Czech Republic, Egypt, Philippines, India, Kenya, Mexico, Mozambique, Russia, Senegal, Slovakia, Tanzania, Turkey, Uruguay and the USA.

(2) IPEN - International POPs Elimination Network consists of non-governmental organizations cooperating on fulfillment of goals adopted by the Stockholm Convention on POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants). The aim of IPEN is  to campaign for a ban and elimination of toxic substances (e.g. aldrin, dieldrin, endrin, DDT, chlordan, heptachlor, hexachlorbenzen, mirex, toxaphen, PCBs and dioxins). The network was established during the preparations of the international convention on POPs elimination in spring 1998. Arnika has been a member organisation since the beginning. More than 350 NGOs from all over the world are now involved in the work of IPEN.  Simultaneously, IPEN currently comments on expert opponent study against incineration of waste containing POPs and specifies conditions for the proposed BAT directives (BAT= best available technologies) and BEP directives (BEP = best environmental practices). These directives are likely be approved at the Conference of Parties to Stockholm Convention . National governments will be required to follow these recommendations while executing the National Implementation Plans for POPs elimination in their countries.

(3) Persistent organic pollutants (POPs): a large group of a very stable chemicals, persisting in the environment for very long periods of time. They may "travel" for thousands of kilometers from its sources of origin. They are water-insoluble, but bind to fats where they often bio-accumulate and travel throughout the food chain.

(4) Conference of Parties to Stockholm Convention– international treaty on twelve most hazardous chemicals in the world (so called Persistent Organic Pollutants- POPs). The name indicates the place of origin of the convention, signed on 23 May 2001. It bans 8 pesticides and 2 industrial chemicals. It introduces the requirement to eliminate environmental pollution caused by polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (jointly known as dioxins) which appear for instance during incineration of chlorinated substances or as undesired byproduct of some chemical production processes. The Czech Republic signed the convention jointly with majority of EU member states, Ukraine and the USA already in 2001 in Stockholm. It has been so far ratified by 94 countries including the Czech Republic. The first Conference of Parties to the Stockholm Convention will take place in Uruguay in May 2005. The outcome of this Conference will determine if Stockholm Convention fulfills its aims, i.e. eliminates hazardous chemicals.

(5) Dioxins (polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans, PCDD/Fs) - highly toxic substances harmful already in trace concentrations. They accumulate in fat tissues. Their concentration in environment increasesd also by a small dust particles. Long lasting exposure to the dioxins and PCB harms our immuneal and neurological system, increases the incidence of cancer, causes changes of endocrine system (mainly of thyroid gland) and of reproductive functions (mainly of male genitals). Other studies showed impacts on development process such as learning disabilities, reduced concentration ability and impacts on children’s behavior (hyperactivity). Dioxins accumulate in human body.

(6) Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have been produced as chemicals for industrial use since 1930. They are very stable chlorinated organic agents. They are water-insoluble, but they bind to fats. They have been used not only in transformer and condenser oils, in paints, in fluxes, but also for tracing papers, in inks and even in lipsticks. After 1984 when dioxin negative impact on human health were already widely recongised, the PCBs production in the former Czechoslovakia (in Chemko Strážské in Slovakia) was terminated. They are still present in transformers and condensers and belong to the most problematic materials in waste. Even at a very low concentration they damage human hormonal and immune systems. People, who have frequently come in contact with material containing high amounts of PCBs suffered later from chlorine acne, liver malfunction, experienced breathing problems etc.

(7) Hexachlorobenzene (HCB) – previously produced as pesticide or for technical use. It is used till nowadays as an intermediate product in chemical plant Spolchemie in Ústí nad Labem. Similarly to dioxins and PCBs it is being created as undesired byproduct for instance during incineration of chlorinated chemicals. Its impacts on human health are comparable to PCBs and dioxins – it negatively influences immune and hormonal system.

(8) Lindan is organochlorine pesticide (OCPs), often compared with DDT due to its properties but, compared to DDT, it is more soluble in water – thanks to this property, lindan was used for seeds protection against soil insects. It is also used in pharmaceuticals – for instance in shampoos against lice (ectoparazites). In India its use was recently recommneded to prevent expansion of malaria as the cheapest DDT substitute . Lindan has many acute and permanent impacts on human health. According to Czech government regulation No. 258/2001 Coll. it has been classified as a toxic chemical toxic to the environment. The so called Risk phrases state that it is toxic for breathing, in contact with skin and during its use. It irritates eyes and skin. Accute contact with lindan has similar symptoms for humans as it has for the insects – it harms the central nervous system. People’s exposure to lower concentrations causes headaches, irritation of mucous membranes or flaccidity of muscles. Long-term exposure negatively impacts the nervous system and causes liver hypertrophy.  The lethal dose is a half of a tea spoon (0,7-1,4g) for a healthy individual.

(9) Polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs) belong to a group of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) used for instance in consumer electronics, carpets or in polyurethan foams in furniture. Many studies proved these chemicals to bio-accumulate in animal fats similarly to PCBs. For instance, tissues of Swedish falcons contained the same concentrations that caused nerve dysfunctions to laboratory rats. An expert team of the Institute of Chemical Technology in Prague found these chemicals in breath milk of Czech women (see press release by Arnika on November - 23 -  2004).


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