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Environmental Pollution And Child Health In The Aral Sea Region In Kazakhstan.

S. Jensen, Z. Mazhitova, R. Zetterström
Published 1997 · Medicine, Chemistry

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The deterioration of human health with increasing infant mortality rate, declining life expectancy at birth and increasing prevalence of serious infectious diseases in Russia and other former Soviet Republics is thought to be due to a combination of several factors such as inadequate nutrition, poor sanitation, collapse of the health care system and pollution from Soviet agriculture and industries. In the Aral Sea region in Kazakhstan, the environmental problems are of near catastrophic proportions. As a result of the implementation of a massive irrigation scheme to support the cotton fields in the former desert land, the water flow to the Aral Sea was reduced to less than half. Industrial pollutants such as PCB-compounds and heavy metals, but also the use of large quantities of pesticides to control parasites and weeds have accumulated not only in water, but also in soil and have been deposited over large areas by atmospheric transport to enter the food chain leading to humans. In a study of 15 children and of an additional 12 children referred from the region of the Aral Sea to the National Children's Rehabilitation Center in Almaty with symptoms and signs of 'ecological disease', we have found that the concentration of PCB compounds in the blood lipids is elevated in relation to healthy Swedish children. In addition, the blood lipid concentration of the beta-isomer of the hexachlorocyclohexanes was extremely high and of DDT-compounds was elevated up to 20 times. The concentrations of lead in red blood cells was moderately elevated and that of cadmium slightly elevated compared to the findings in Stockholm children. To study the role of these pollutants in the diseases found in children from the Aral Sea region accurate epidemiological studies have to be performed.
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