The problem with the toxic waste and lindane in OHIS proves too overwhelming for the government to solve

No one has foreseen that it is possible to leave such a quantity of Lindanе outdoors, as the current one, in the yard of the former OHIS plant in Skopje

A team of fellow researchers from the Czech Republic and S. Macedonia has installed absorbers, in several locations around the country, for taking samples from the air for the analysis of substances – pesticides, dioxins, furans. They were placed in Lazaropole as a comparison point, then Strumica, where pesticides are used, in Bitola, in Skopje to OHIS in the chemical school, to the rectorate and the Refinery.

Results of lindane measurements at certain locations

“The results from Skopje were worrying, with highly toxic concentrations! The problem is that there is no officially established border on a world level, no normal person has foreseen that it is possible to keep such a quantity of lindane out in the open. Only in the US state of Massachusetts, they set their own norm, the highest alarm limit of 3,000 picograms of lindane per cubic meter. But this norm was in Massachusetts 30 years ago. We are above that norm, said prof. Dr. Trajche Stafilov, of the Institute of Chemistry at the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics in Skopje.

The government is on the way to solve the landfill problem in OHIS

After a decade of banning the production of lindane and for more than 30 years of storage of toxic waste in the circle of the OHIS plant, the solution for decontamination of these chemicals is finally looming. The Ministry of Environment in early June will announce the name of the company that will perform the process of decontamination of the waste material from the yard of the former Macedonian giant in the chemical industry, OHIS factory. Then the international competition will be concluded, which, in addition to choosing who will be doing the decontamination of toxic waste, will know the methodology for its operation, informed Suzana Andonova from the Office for Persistent Organic Pollutants at the Ministry of environment.

Suzana Andonova from the Ministry of Environment at the Office for Persistent Organic Pollutants: at the beginning of June a company will be known to work on the decontamination of lindane

It is about 50 tonnes of waste substances, mixed with soil, as residues from the production of pesticide lindane, which began to be stored in the 1970s and after banning the production of lindane in 2009, when it was put on a list as a toxic substance, a large amount of this pesticide remained on backyard near the plant where it was produced. Thus, three landfills were created, of which the exact location is known for two. The Fourth landfill is located in the settlement Drachevo, a few kilometers away from the factory, next to the monastery “Enlargement of Rusa Sreda”. A few months earlier, a Memorandum of collaboration was signed between the Government of the Republic of Macedonia, the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Norway for joint implementation of a project for cleaning the area in the garden of OHIS in Skopje. A Fund was established through which funds for decontamination of this space will be collected. In parallel with the activities of the Government and the line ministries, there was also the awakening of awareness among citizens about the harm that these chemical waste materials carry.

Svetlana Pejovic – a biologist from the Macedonian Ecological Society, at a debate to raise awareness about the toxicity of toxic waste and lindane

“Macedonian Ecological Society has so far held two workshops in order to inform the public about the harmfulness of these substances, involving the three affected municipalities: Kisela Voda, Aerodrome, and Gazi Baba, where the factory is located. These substances are a group of organic chemical compounds that are extremely toxic and very difficult to decompose in nature. They persist for decades when they are omitted in the environment. They cross into groundwater, indirectly in food through the soil, and they can be present in the air and inhale. They have a very harmful effect on people’s health, but also on the animals and the living world in general says Svetlana Pejovic – a biologist from the Macedonian Ecological Society.

Three methods for cleaning toxic substances have been identified

The area on which the OHIS plant is located in 89.77 hectares (897 700 m2), of which contaminated and polluted land occupies an area of ​​10.60 hectares (106000 m2) of a larger landfill, and a smaller landfill covers 5.07 hectares (50700 m2), which is a total 15.67 hectares ie 156.700 m2. contaminated surface. This space should be treated with appropriate application remediation technologies, for which the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning is obligated to undertake the procedure for remediation of polluted land within a planned scope.

We assume there will be a combined selection of technologies. Estimates are that for cleaning a small landfill will take 5 years, and for the big 10 years. According to the plan, the small landfill will first be cleaned in a sealed balloon with appropriate pressure to prevent additional excavation emissions. “That condensate can be burnt automatically, that is, it can only be destroyed or it can be packed safely and taken abroad, but the entire package and transport procedure is long and complicated,” said Suzana Andonova from the Office for POPs (Persistent organic pollutants)

A team of professionals in the OHIS factory

After purifying the soil, it is planned to perform bioremediation, ie cleaning with microorganisms or plants, which will clean up the rest of the soil with lower concentrations of lindane. The lindane is accidentally found in the blood of girls with premature puberty, causing reproductive disorders and developmental defects in children.

Dr. Marina Krstevska Kostadinovska from the Children’s Clinic, who has been investigating health disorders among children, has spoken of how Lindane has found its way to people.

Dr. Marina Krstevska Konstantinova was selected by the European Association for Pediatric Endocrinology to continue her education in Liège, Belgium, from 1997-1999, where she was working on a project for children with premature puberty, and as a major accent was placed of adopted children, for which science can not give an answer as to why precisely in these children comes puberty earlier. In this study, 12 organochloride pesticides have been adopted, including lindane. We found that among the interviewees – children in Belgium, DDT derivative was increased. After several years, after I returned to work at the Department of Endocrinology at the Children’s Clinic in Skopje, within my doctoral dissertation, I wanted to do a similar examination with our girls who had premature puberty, and that was what they expected from Belgium. Blood samples from 56 girls from different parts of Macedonia were taken, who first entered puberty, mostly from Skopje. Results were sent to processing in Belgium.

Dr. Marina Krstevska-Konstantinova: The results showed that a small percentage of 10 to 15% had derivatives of Di-Di-Ti, but many, almost all children, had higher values ​​of lindane

“When we got the results, we were all surprised. It was not expected that lindane values ​​would be elevated. We were warned by Belgium, who reacted first because they analyzed the results, which showed that our children have a small percentage, 10 to 15 percent have derivatives of DDT, but many, almost all children had higher values ​​of lindane. To my surprise, a control group had a greater presence of lindane than a test group.

Lindane in the child can cause very large changes, acts on many systems and organs, so in the first place is the nervous system: children can get seizures and epileptic seizures, disorders in their development, early puberty and problems with the reproductive system, hormonal imbalance. This disorder also occurs in the male population when there is a problem with spermatogenesis, says Dr. Marina Krstevska-Konstantinova. This study was published in the report for toxic waste from the factory, OHIS, by the Ministry of Environment issued in 2014, which reads: “As an unexpected finding from the study, there were high concentrations of lindane in the blood of respondents, even in the control group. It was the reason for taking concrete actions to finally find a solution to the historical pollution of lindane in the country. “

Exposure to lindane is the cause of many types of cancer

An International Cancer Research Association classifies lindane into Group 1 carcinogenic substances with sufficient evidence of causing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. However, the use of lindane is now banned or restricted in most countries. Large epidemiological studies of agricultural exposure in the United States and Canada have shown an increased risk of NHL Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is increased by 60% in those exposed to lindane. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (also known as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, NHL, or sometimes only lymphoma) is a type of cancer that begins in white blood cells called lymphocytes, which are part of the immune system of the body. Suzana Andonova says that lindane and all POPs chemicals from the Stockholm Convention have similar properties and function on the principle of mimicry. (Source: The International Agency for Research on Cancer https://www.iarc.fr/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/pr236_E.pdf

Exposure to lindane may arise from the consumption of contaminated foods or breathing air polluted with lindane. Long-term exposure to lindane by inhalation in humans has been associated with liver disease and blood diseases as well as disorders of the nervous, cardiovascular, immunological and reproductive systems.

When a chemical enters the body, it recognizes it as its own hormone, such as estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, etc. When he recognizes it as such, it gives an answer and strengthens the symptoms of hormonal imbalance, which disrupts the reproductive system. Lindane accumulates in the brain and causes genetic malformations and endocrine disorders in the pituitary gland HCH isomers are carcinogenic, immunotoxic and neurotoxic, says Dr. Marina Krstevska-Konstantinova.

The problem is global because of widespread contamination of land and seas from a six-decade production of Lindane

We are not just a global village in terms of information, as predicted by Marshall McLuhan, Marshall McLuhan, but in terms of pollution. We are all in the same pot and suffer the consequences as a result of the six-decade production of lindane, but also of other chemicals and waste from them, which is also indicated by the fact that Lindane was found in the Arctic, where neither was produced nor used. Most lindane producers are located on an Indian subcontinent, where there is a serious problem with contaminated water, land, and cities, and lindane is produced in both China and Japan.

Lindane is still used worldwide as a pharmaceutical product, shampoos, for the treatment of lice, most commonly in children and animals, or as a powder for controlling insects

Lindane is still used worldwide as a pharmaceutical product, shampoos, for the treatment of lice, most commonly in children and animals, or as a powder for controlling insects. One of the important problems is that these substances remain in the environment for a long time. For more than 60 years, lindane has been used in agriculture as an insecticide, for controlling parasites in cattle, treating the soil,  and seeds, it was used against insect infestation.

Photographs: Marjan Trajkovski, Gordana Blazhevska, Farmahem, Macedonian ecological society

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