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Assessment of pesticides legacy contamination in Armenia

Project term: 1 year
Source of pollution/contaminants: former storages of obsolete pesticides, DDT, obsolete organochlorine pesticides
Implementer: EHPMI
Total cost: $20,000

Project term: 1 yearSource of pollution/contaminants: former storages of obsolete pesticides, DDT, obsolete organochlorine pesticidesImplementer: EHPMITotal cost: $20,000

In 2010 Food and Agriculture Organization did and assessment in four obsolete pesticides stockpiles sites (Nubarashen, Jrarat, Masis and Echmiadzin) and in a dumpsite of historic copper production waste close to Alaverdi in the north part of Armenia. Their focus was on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) as most serious contaminants at the sites, but chemical analyses didn’t concentrate only on those chemicals.

Samples were analyzed for 21 OCPs (organochlorine pesticides) and their metabolites, PCDD/Fs (polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxines and furanes) and DL PCBs (dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls). Chosen samples were analyzed for 222 pesticides and their metabolites (other than obsolete OCPs), 8 fenoxyalkane acid based pesticides, 7 PCB congeners as well as mercury and other heavy metals (6 chemicals).

In Nubarashen the soil has been found to be heavily contaminated by DDT, HCHs, some non-chlorinated pesticides and PCDD/Fs. From the non-chlorinated pesticides simazine was found. The very high air contamination determined at the fence of the burial site is significantly decreasing by distance, however, OCPs concentrations are still significantly elevated up to 2 km distance. In Jrarat in the small demolished storage building there was an extremely strong smell due to the inappropriate storage of methyl mercaptophos (information provided by the owner) and numerous destroyed bags full of pesticides. The soil between demolished buildings was heavily contaminated by DDX as well as other OCPs. The spread of OCPs by air to the wider surroundings was reflected in the concentration gradient determined by passive air sampling and elevated DDX levels in eggs from hens freely roaming behind the wall surrounding the storage site. In Echmiadzin the floors of both storage rooms exhibited a significant contamination by OCPs and several other pesticides. Eggs taken from hens from surroundings of the storehouse exhibited extremely high DDX. The storage room in Masis was heavily contaminated by HCHs and other pesticides. The floor in the central small storage room was heavily contaminated by other pesticides (non-OCPs). In Alaverdi some OCPs, PCDD/Fs-PCB TEQs suggesting a risk to humans and animals and the need for a preliminary risk analysis were detected. 

In 2015 a study published by FAO, PAN UK and partners showed that farming communities in Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, and Ukraine have all reported incidents of acute pesticide poisoning with symptoms ranging from headaches, nausea and rashes through to convulsions, loss of consciousness and even death.

Proposed Solutions/ Project Objectives

  1. Identify locations of sites contaminated with obsolete pesticides in Armenia. 
  2. Conduct initial site assessments of identified areas. 
  3. Identify priority sites for further investigation and cleanup.
  4. Prepare awareness materials for local residents about risks of DDT and other obsolete pesticides.