Eleven times higher levels of dioxins found in blood samples of former employees of chemical plant Spolana

23.5.2002 - Prague

Scientists found 11 times higher dioxins concentrations in blood samples of former employees of chemical plant Spolana Neratovice. Concentration  of the most dangerous substance - 2,3,7,8 TeCDD - was even 35 times higher. This substance is called "Seveso dioxin"  which emerged as undesired byproduct during production of chlorinated pesticides in the plant in 1965 - 1968. ";It is proved this chemical is carcinogen for humans. Furthermore, it can be 1000 times more poisonous in comparation with some other dioxins," said  ARNIKA's expert consultant - physician Miroslav Šuta.

Spolana was forced to end the pesticide production in 1968 due to serious diseases of some 80 employees. Most of them received confirmation on occupational disease but they got such a low compensation that some of them paradoxically had to stay in Spolana. Even nowadays some of them still work there as they could hardly find another job due to their handicap. Many of the former workers are not alive anymore.

ARNIKA obtained the results of measurement of dioxins in blood samples of men working in Spolana in 1965-1968 from a copy of final report concerning research called "Study of persistent organic pollutants´ appearance in atmosphere and their depositions in the territory of the Czech Republic in 2001".  The report says that 11 times higher concentration of dioxins was found in 4 blood samples compared to 4 control samples from males not exposed to the high concentrations of dioxins. Average dioxin concentration found in blood samples of former workers of Spolana was 375,1 pgTEQ/g, compared to 32,5 pgTEQ/g in normal population.

"These alarming findings only emphasise a necessity of proper decontamination of buildings in the area of Spolana. It must be done in a way which avoids further leakage of dioxins or similar chemicals to the environment," said Jindřich Petrlík, ARNIKA´s head of programme Toxics and Waste.  The need of dioxin elimination is also underlined in the Stockholm Convention, signed in May 2001 and ratified also by the Czech Parliament this year.  The elimination was also one of goals of ARNIKA´s petition Toxic Free Future, so far signed by 9000 people.

Dioxins (exact name is polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans) are highly stable chemical substances which appear as undesired by-product for instance in plants dealing with chlorine chemistry, during paper and textile bleaching or as a consequence of incineration of chlorinated substances.

Even in low concentrations they are harmful for human immunity and hormonal systems. Dioxins congener 2,3,7,8 TeCDD is a carcinogen. People exposed to high concentrations of dioxins and other dioxin like substances (such as PCBs) suffered from disease called chloracne, liver disfunctions, breathing problems and others.

ARNIKA works on a problem of toxic pollution of  Spolana Neratovice and surrounding area within its campaign Toxic Free Future. The plant is one of two hot spots in the Middle Bohemian region.

Huge quantities of the dioxins caused contamination of  Spolana´s building (production hall), soil, water and air in the area around the buildings. Most chemicals had been produced in between 1965-1968 during production of herbicide 2,4,5-T, well known as Agent Orange used by the U.S. Army in Vietnam. But dioxins still emerge within production of other chlororganic chemicals such as DDT, lindane, pentachlorophenol, ethylendichloride, vinylchloride monomer, PVC etc.

Articles taken from the Study of persistent organic pollutants appearance in atmosphere and their deposition in the territory of the Czech Republic in 2001.:

Samples of plasma from 8 donors were analysed together with Axis Varilab laboratories and with the Clinic for Occupational Diseases of the 1st Medical Faculty of Charles University. Four donors were former workers of Spolana Neratovice and as such had been exposed to organochlorine pesticides. The other 4 donors were chosen for comparison. They were of the same age as the former workers but had not been exposed to the high concentrations of organochlorine substances.

Results of the exposed workers were significantly different form the other 4 males in terms of 2,3,7,8_TeCDD concentrations. Average content of TeCDD in plasma achieved 350 pg/g (in lipid), compared to less than 10 pg/g in samples from control donors. Amounts of other congeners were not different from each other.  The most frequent congener was OCDD (230 pg/g) while 2,3,4,7-PeCDD (230 pg/g) contributed the most to the total TEQ (30 pg/g).

Selective increase of 2,3,7,8 TeCDD content in plasma of the exposed workers is relevant to the character of the exposure. The area of the place of contamination was polluted exclusively by this congener while other concentrations were much lower.


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