The historically first conference dedicated to the issue of highly hazardous persistent organic pollutants (POPs) (1) in Turkey took place at the end of December in Istanbul. In its organising, there participated Turkish non-governmental organisations Association of Physicians for the Environment of Turkey - APET (2) and Bumerang (3) in co-operation with the International POPs Elimination Network - IPEN (4), Czech association Arnika, and Regional Environmental Center (REC). In the conference, a representative of the Ministry of Forests and the Environment of the Republic of Turkey announced that the Ministry had just started the process of the Stockholm Convention (5) ratification. This Convention should lead to a world-wide elimination of POPs in the environment. Non-governmental organisations consider this step as their first big success this year and started to campaign against pollution by toxic substances, such as dioxins (6), DDT, or brominated flame retardants (7) in Turkey. The Arnika Association helped to start the campaign as IPEP regional hub.„Until quite recently, very little attention was paid to the issue of persistent organic pollutants in Turkey,“ says Hana Kuncová, MSc, co-ordinator of the Dioxin, PCBs and Waste Working Group of the IPEN, and the IPEP Project (8) in the Arnika Association, for Turkey. Although Greenpeace worked at the situation systematically for several years, state bodies refused to get down to any measures. „Thanks to our support, new studies, mapping „hot spots“ – the biggest sources of POPs releases, were produced in the last year. We are convinced that thanks to this information and pressure of the public, the Ministry of Forests and the Environment began to take an active approach to this issue. Starting of the ratification process of the Stockholm Convention is a big success,“ summarises Kuncová.
According to Melis Yarman from the non-governmental organisation Bumerang, ratification of the Stockholm Convention is important, but the main part of the work will come in the future only. Turkey will now be obliged to prepare so-called National Implementation Plan which should describe, in detail, all POPs releases into the environment, old environmental burdens, and ways to their elimination. Only then, actual steps to protection of the environment and human health will be started. „Responsibility of the Turkish government does not end with ratification of the Stockholm Convention. It is only beginning. Non-governmental organisations must actively participate in preparation of the National Implementation Plan to Stockholm Convention, and they must push through that really effective and up-to-date measures - i.e., principles of clean production and sustainable life, be present therein. In view of small progressiveness of state authorities, as well as strength of the industry, this surely will not be easy,“ says Yarman.
Concrete steps to elimination of POPs from the environment were required also by numerous representatives of the academic community, and doctors, on the conference in Istanbul. „Persistent organic pollutants are one of the biggest threats to human health, and their elimination should be a priority of Turkey in the field of the environment,“ said Seval Alkoy, MB, from the APET. In his presentation, professor Ilhan Talinli, MB, from the Istanbul Technical University, drew attention to the fact that Turkey should progressively head for full ban of use of PVC, and waste incineration. According to him, this could result in considerable reduction of endangering of the environment by persistent organic pollutants.
The issue of POPs was brought into attention of the Turkish public more markedly in 2004, when the IPEP project enabled preparation of the first studies on this subject. At that time, the organisation Bumerang published comprehensive reports on municipal waste incinerator near the town of Izmit, obsolete pesticides storage near the Derince municipality, and petrochemical complex Petkim which, among others, produces PVC. In 2005, Turkey, together with further thirty countries of the world, participated in a global campaign of the IPEN network "Keep the Promise – Eliminate POPs", based on comparison of results of chemical analyses of chicken eggs for content of persistent organic pollutants. Samples were taken in the vicinity of the incinerator in Izmit. At that time, eggs from Turkey were tested for the content of substances such as dioxins, hexachlorobenzene (9) and brominated flame retardants historically for the first time. Results of the analysis were alarming - doctors classified the eggs as uneatable and hazardous to human health.
At the end of the conference in Istanbul, organised on December 24, there was written a declaration of non-governmental organisations, doctors, and academicians, addressed to the Government of the Turkish Republic, and the Ministry of the Environment. The Declaration requires stopping of processes which are sources of releases of persistent organic pollutants into the environment, such as, for example, waste incineration. It invites state authorities to prepare inventory of the current sources of POPs in Turkey, and to eliminate existing environmental burdens, for example, stores of old pesticides. Further, the Declaration requires support of public information campaigns that would inform the population about hazards of persistent organic pollutants for human health.
More information sources:
(1) 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 foetus, unborn baby. These substances include, for example: DDT, lindane, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), hexachlorobenzene, and others.
(2) APET is non-governmental association of doctors, concentrating on the environment. It was established in 1998, and it became member of the International Society of Doctors for Environment, a network associating national organisations from more than 35 countries. www.cevrehekim.org
(3) Bumerang is non-governmental organisation concentrating on campaigns based on results of scientific research. Its main activity are campaigns against presence of toxic substances in the environment. It was established thanks to support of the IPEP project in this year. Bumerang informs the public on hazards ensuing from pollution by toxic substances, and tries to push through introduction of cleaner production, and search of long-term solutions preventing the creation of toxic pollution. www.bumerang-tr.org
(4) 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. www.ipen.org
(5) 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: 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. Official pages of the Convention: www.pops.int
(6) 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 the immune and nervous systems, changes of the endocrine system (especially the 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 (Dioxyn in foodstuffs )
(7) Brominated flame retardants are various chemical substances used in products (for example, electronics, carpets, or curtains) to retard burning. Their typical representatives include polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), a group of 209 chemical substances with similar properties. PBDE may cause very serious harms to the environment, because they are toxic to water organisms (they cause growth and reproduction problems), and show high ability to persist and accumulate in the environment. In fire, they can decompose, producing highly toxic brominated chemicals. Toxicity and bioaccumulative potential of PBDEs in water environment decrease with higher number of bromine atoms in the molecule. Action of PBDEs has a global nature, because they were detected in samples of water and sediments, and in bodies of organisms, on localities very far from the site of the source of their release. Source: www.irz.cz
(8) IPEP - International POPs Elimination Project is a project of the international network IPEN, financed through the financial mechanism of the Stockholm Convention from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) funds. The global co-ordination centre of the project is a US non-governmental organisation EHF (Environmental Health Fund). Eight regional co-ordination centres were established for eight regions of the world. Arnika was selected as one of the centres, for the area called "Central and Eastern Europe" (including the Balkan states). In this region, non-governmental organisations are recently active in the following countries: Estonia, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, and Turkey. Internet pages of the project: www.oztoxics.org/ipepweb
(9) Hexachlorobenzene (HCB) was, in the past, produced as pesticide and for technical use, and was formed as an unwanted by-product. Up to the present, it has been formed as an intermediate product in Spolchemie in Ústí nad Labem (production of chlorinated solvents, 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.