Toxic pollution of soil confirmed in Northern Armenia

Study presentation at a conference in Yerevan
photo: Miroslav Šuta

High levels of dangerous chemicals in the soil of Lorri Province were reported in an analysis published today by Arnika and the Center for Community Mobilisation and Support (CCMS). The industrial facilities of Alaverdi and Akhtala poison the neighbouring landscape with potentially carcinogenic chemicals. Czech scientists indicated arsenic and cadmium among other heavy metals have been detected in the area. High levels of contamination of free-range chicken eggs by dioxins was also confirmed by new analysis. Local NGOs call for further investigation and potential health damage compensations.

An analysis which used the Risk-Integrated Software for Cleanups (RISC) examined samples of soil, foodstuff and human hair. Its conclusion is that there is a heavy metal pollution in the agricultural region. The Alaverdi metallurgical plant and Akhtala’s copper and molybdenum mines and tailing ponds, which are in close vicinity to the River Debed, are proven to be the sources of heavy metal contamination even to more distant regions.

The samples were analysed in laboratories of the University of Chemistry and Technology in Prague and the National Institutes of Public Health in Prague and in Ústí nad Labem as a part of the Transition Promotion Programme of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.

Elevated levels of arsenic, cadmium, copper, molybdenum, nickel, and lead were found in soils of the investigated area.

Most of the sites that were sampled can be considered polluted. The levels of chemicals represent a threat to the environment and human health in some cases. The concentrations of heavy metals in multiple soil samples exceed various legal standards,” summarizes Oleg Dulgaryan, Head of the CCMS, referring to the Armenian, Dutch, French and Czech soil standards, and also the US EPA level of the pollution limit for non-industrial areas.

Food and hair mostly clean

While the soil samples revealed elevated levels of heavy metals, the samples of foodstuffs and hair did not reveal similarly alarming results. The maximum levels of cadmium and lead  set by the FAO/WHO and European Union (as well as the requirements set by the Order of the Minister of Healthcare of Armenia) have been met in the analysed food – home grown vegetables, fruit, and honey.

Also, the results of human hair tests indicate that the levels of mercury and nickel samples rarely exceed any international norms. The exception were three hair samples from one farmhouse located in Akori, which contained elevated levels of nickel in comparison with other hair samples and with levels found in similar studies.

“Further research should be done in order to determine the possible accumulation of cadmium and arsenic in human body,” Arnika’s expert Jindrich Petrlik suggests. “Heavy metals are just one of the groups of dangerous chemicals released by the local industry. We are planning additional activities in this area. Moreover, some pollution and health monitoring should be established by the government. We analyzed one additional pooled sample of free range chicken eggs from Alaverdi for dioxins, and result confirmed alarming level of these chemicals revealed in local free range chicken eggs in previous year. Dioxins are dangerous in very tiny concentrations, and Alaverdi seems to be seriously contaminated hot spot by these chemicals,” he concludes.

Read the full study here: Heavy metals in soils, foodstuffs, and human hair in the mining and metallurgical communities of Alaverdi and Akthala, Lori province of Armenia.

Center for Community Mobilisation and Support (CCMS) is community-based NGO from Alaverdi in North-East Armenia. It promotes the development of civil society organizations, cultural life, youth activities and initiatives together with a non-formal education of citizens through seminars, training, development of practical skills, etc. The activities of CCMS are focused on human rights, child protection, social law, education, health and environment. The CCMS cooperates with international and local organizations and foundations and is a member of various networks and part of coalition founders. Recently, due to the unbearable situation in Alaverdi and Akhtala it deals with environmental issues in Lorri Province. Read more…

Arnika is a Prague-based non-governmental organisation established in 2001 uniting people seeking a better environment. Since its foundation, it has become one of the most important environmental organizations in the Czech Republic focusing on nature conservation, toxins and waste, and public participation in decision making on environmental issues. It cooperates with number of partners worldwide (e.g. in Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ghana, Thailand or Ukraine) to provide a better and healthier future for as many as possible no matter the geographical location. Read more…

Ecolur is an Armenian informational online portal covering various environmental topics nationwide. Its goal is to increase the awareness of the public including officials, local communities, NGOs, business scientists, mass media about the environmental problems. Moreover, Ecolur aims to provide expert assessments on environmental problems and public monitoring of the ecological and social situation in ecological “hot spots” in Armenia in order to guarantee the right of everybody to the access to ecological information and the right to a healthy life and healthy environment. Read more...

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Contacts for media
Martin Holzknecht | Arnika | international PR | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | (+420)602 850 912
Oleg Dulgaryan | CCMS | President of the organization | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Miroslava Jopková | Arnika | project coordinator | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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