Old pesticide stockpiles and tyre pyrolysis were identified as potential sources of persistent organic pollutants in Moldova

CHISINAU/PRAGUE – A recent joint study by Moldovan and Czech experts revealed the presence of significant persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in chicken eggs. These findings raise concerns about the contamination of human food and its consequences on the health of local people. [1] The study identified POPs as probably being related to old environmental burdens, such as obsolete pesticide or transformer oil stockpiles. The experts also warn about the other known sources of unintentionally produced POPs, for example, tyre pyrolysis or waste incineration, which may lead to further contamination of the environment. These sources could become a serious threat in Moldova as a consequence of legislative changes allowing such practices that are being prepared. Experts also suggest that stricter limits for POPs in waste should be established and that the Moldovan government should support the introduction of such limits at the upcoming conference of the parties to the Basel Convention held in June in Geneva.

The free-range egg samples and soil samples were collected in three localities – Ciobanovca and Bălți, with waste landfills located nearby, and Dumbrava, located near the industrial part of Vatra, where tyre pyrolysis, asphalt production, and other industrial activities take place. “High levels of dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls that exceed the EU standards for food by up to three and a half times were measured in the eggs from Dumbrava. It is an indicator that tyre pyrolysis or other industrial sources in the nearby Vatra industrial zone can be significant sources of toxic chemicals,” says Jindřich Petrlík, one of the study’s authors, explaining that the exposure of people to organic pollutants through food may lead to serious health effects, including certain types of cancer, birth defects, dysfunctional immune and reproductive systems, etc.There is a need for the better environmental assessment of newly-built potential sources of unintentionally produced POPs, such as waste incinerators and other combustion industrial processes,” he adds.

The topic of unintentionally produced POPs relates closely to the issue of waste management in Moldova. Currently, the business lobby is calling for the ban on tyre burning to be lifted. An amendment to the law allowing this practice has been postponed thanks to the protests of civil organizations which demand that the technological processes of incineration should be under the control of the state in order to prevent emissions of toxic substances such as dioxins and furans formed during incineration. “The control is required in the law on atmospheric air of 1997, but in practice, it remained unrealised, because the state did not ensure real control over the quality of emissions, leaving it entirely in the hands of businesses. On the basis of the experience of Romanian environmentalists, we are afraid that the lack of state control will provoke corruption and an unpermitted level of emissions,” claims Ilya Trombitsky, a co-author of the study.

The chemical analyses also revealed serious contamination of the eggs from Ciobanovca, close to the biggest Chisinau landfill, with obsolete pesticides containing POPs and polychlorinated biphenyls. It signals a need to improve the register of stockpiles of these substances, including buildings left without any remediation after stocks of POPs were removed from them. These contaminated buildings can remain serious hotspots of pollution. All these findings indicate that there is a strong need for a more robust monitoring system and data collection regarding the occurrence of POPs in the Moldovan environment. Otherwise, the risk cannot be managed properly.

[1] Exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) can lead to serious health effects, including certain cancers, birth defects, dysfunctional immune and reproductive systems, greater susceptibility to disease, and damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems. POPs become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and wildlife, and have harmful impacts on human health or on the environment. Their persistence means that they do not break down easily in the environment, contaminating soil and water for decades, building up in the food chain, and causing dangerous levels of human exposure. These man-made substances are banned and/or controlled under the Stockholm Convention and include polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins, brominated flame retardants, and per- and polyfluoralkyl substances among others.

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