• Acting on an Environmental Health Disaster: The Case of the Aral Sea.

      Small, I; van der Meer, J; Upshur, R; Uzbekistan/Turkmenistan and the Aral Sea Area Program, Medecins Sans Frontieres, Tashkent, Uzbekistan. msfh-tashkent@amsterdam.msf.org (Published by National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, 2001-06)
      The Aral Sea area in Central Asia has been encountering one of the world's greatest environmental disasters for more than 15 years. During that time, despite many assessments and millions of dollars spent by large, multinational organizations, little has changed. The 5 million people living in this neglected and virtually unknown part of the world are suffering not only from an environmental catastrophe that has no easy solutions but also from a litany of health problems. The region is often dismissed as a chronic problem where nothing positive can be achieved. Within this complicated context, Medecins Sans Frontieres, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999, is actively trying to assess the impact of the environmental disaster on human health to help the people who live in the Aral Sea area cope with their environment. Medecins Sans Frontieres has combined a direct medical program to improve the health of the population while conducting operational research to gain a better understanding of the relationship between the environmental disaster and human health outcomes. In this paper we explore the health situation of the region and the broader policy context in which it is situated, and present some ideas that could potentially be applied to many other places in the world that are caught up in environmental and human health disasters.
    • Assessment of Dietary Exposure to Some Persistent Organic Pollutants in the Republic of Karakalpakstan of Uzbekistan.

      Muntean, N; Jermini, M; Small, I; Falzon, D; Fürst, P; Migliorati, G; Scortichini, G; Forti, A F; Anklam, E; von Holst, C; et al. (Published by National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, 2003-08)
      A 1999 study heightened long-standing concerns over persistent organic pollutant contamination in the Aral Sea area, detecting elevated levels in breast milk and cord blood of women in Karakalpakstan (western Uzbekistan). These findings prompted a collaborative research study aimed at linking such human findings with evidence of food chain contamination in the area. An international team carried out analyses of organochlorine and organophosphate pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs), and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs) on samples of 12 foods commonly produced and consumed in Karakalpakstan. Analysis consistently detected long-lasting organochlorine pesticides and their metabolites in all foods of animal origin and in some vegetables such as onions and carrots--two low-cost components of many traditional dishes. Levels of PCBs were relatively low in all samples except fish. Analyses revealed high levels of PCDDs and PCDFs (together often termed "dioxins") in sheep fat, dairy cream, eggs, and edible cottonseed oil, among other foodstuffs. These findings indicate that food traditionally grown, sold, and consumed in Karakalpakstan is a major route of human exposure to several persistent toxic contaminants, including the most toxic of dioxins, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (2,3,7,8-TCDD). Intake estimations demonstrate that consumption of even small amounts of locally grown food may expose consumers to dioxin levels that considerably exceed the monthly tolerable dioxin intake levels set by the World Health Organization. Data presented in this study allow a first assessment of the risk associated with the consumption of certain food products in Karakalpakstan and highlight a critical public health situation.