Calls for tightening the international legislation heard at a conference on toxic substances

31.8.2018 - KRAKÓW
PHOTO: Tom Harner / Twitter

Eggs, toys, and combs may contain dioxins and/or brominated flame retardants (BFRs), endangering human health. At an international conference in Poland, this was stated by authors of studies investigating the harmfulness of consumer products available in the Czech Republic or in environmental compartments in Thailand. Experts from around the world discussed the presence of these harmful substances in the environment and the hazardous impacts on organisms at the international conference Dioxin 2018 in Krakow, Poland.

Some plastic hair accessories and even toys for children on the European market contain substances similar to dioxins like hazardous flame retardants. This was a commentary on the results of the Czech analysis made by Jindřich Petrlík, an expert on toxics from the Arnika Association, at the conference.

“We found polybrominated diphenyl ethers and hexabromocyclododecane in toys for children and hair accessories for women made of black recycled plastic. These substances endanger nervous system and immune system development, and are endocrine disrupting chemicals especially when children are exposed to them,” said Petrlík concerning substances presented in the analyzed articles.

Testing carried out in laboratories of the Prague Chemical University exceeded the limit for BFR content in waste. According to experts, these substances should not be present in the analyzed products. With the highest likeliness, they got into the plastics from electronic waste, inter alia, originating in Europe. The waste is recycled in Asia; often, these plastics make a return to western markets. "Recycling of these toxic substances is permitted by inappropriately set limits for their contents in waste, laid down, in addition to the legislation, also by global conventions. This is an interesting topic for an international scientific forum," summarized Petrlík in one of his presentations.

All the aforementioned substances rank among the so-called persistent organic pollutants. 26 of such compounds and their groups are already on the Stockholm Convention list. They were either banned or restricted in their use and releases to the Stockholm Convention's requirements.

Dioxins show a number of negative impacts on human health, and some of them are even carcinogenic. In wind and water currents, they can travel thousands of kilometers from the pollution sources. Moreover, these substances are rarely degradable by organisms, so they accumulate in animal lipid tissues. Because of this fact, chicken eggs are often used for monitoring the environment.

"Reading eggs"
In Krakow, the analyses of eggs from sites affected by industry in China, Kazakhstan, and Thailand were presented. "For example, pollution in the Thai province of Samut Sakhon is really critical, especially regarding dioxins," said Akarapon Teebthaisong from the Thai organization, EARTH. Concerning the study, he stated to the scientific forum in Krakow the following comments: “The commissioned analyses found high concentrations of these substances in eggs consumed by local populations. The pollution source in this area is a high number of small metal smelting and recycling plants where even electronic waste is often burned.”

Thai experts, in cooperation with Arnika, warned about the situation in the last year, but no significant change has taken place. Now, the team hopes that the presentation of the investigation results at the international forum will aid in creating solutions for this deeply troubling situation. "Even small children often live in the neighborhood of the polluting plants," added Petrlík.

Dozens of presentations were given in the Dioxin 2018 conference which focused on various problems connected with persistent organic pollutants and on the European Union plans for solving them. One of the sediment analyses showed that the occurrence of some of them (e.g. DDT) in nature is decreasing; however, the concentration of perfluorinated substances is still growing.




This article was prepared and published as part of the project “Increasing Transparency in Industrial Pollution Management through Citizen Science” funded by the European Union (EU) and co-funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic within the framework of the Transition Promotion Program - a financial assistance program supporting democracy and human rights using the Czech Republic's experience of social transition and democratization.

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