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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Russian Health Issues and Pollution

There have been several interesting articles concerning Russia on the internet recently. One article posted on MSNBC.com named three Russian cities as among the ten most polluted cities in the world. One of the cities, Dzerzhinsk, is where Karen and I lived with our children in 1994-96. Dzerzhinsk is only about 30 miles from where we currently live. At that time we would often wake up in the morning, look out our window and see a chemical haze hanging in the air. We still visit Dzerzhinsk on a regular basis to speak at the church we planted there in the 90s. In fact many chemical dumps, chemical waste incinerators and dumping sites exist all thourghout the area in which we live.

Here is what the MSNBC article said:

"42-year life expectancy
According to the report, the 300,000 people in Dzherzhinsk, a chemical weapons manufacturing site during the Cold War era, have a life expectancy about “half that of the richest nations.” The life expectancy for men in the city is about 42 years and about 47 for women."

The link to read the full article is http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15320729/

Here is another article describing the pollution in Dzerzhinsk and the surrounding area:

http://www.pollutedplaces.org/region/e_europe/russia/dzerzhinsk.shtml

and this is from an article at:

http://www.exile.ru/2004-June-24/feature_story.html

"Dzerzhinsk leads the Nizhny oblast in problematic pregnancies, with more miscarriages and anemia, and complications during childbirth. The infant mortality rate stands at 20.3 per thousand, and that the death rate is 2.4 times the birthrate. The WHO has found human milk in Dzerzhinsk mothers to be highly toxic, with high levels of PCBs. It's so bad that they even called for the reduction of breast feeding.

A few steps have even been taken to improve peoples' health. Up until the mid-90s, two villages in the shadow of one of Dzerzhinsk's largest factories -- plastic producing Kaprolaktan -- drank from wells, despite the toxic sludge within a stone's throw. Now their water is piped in. But even today, some locals will go fishing in the shadow of the factory, a few hundred feet from a canal filled with red-brown sludge that carries ethyl-benzene, phenantrene, isomeric acid and other goodies from the Sintez factory into the Oka river.

Cows graze right next to the 50 hectare White Sea, so called because of the huge amounts of polyvinyl chloride and ammonia left over from cyanide production at Kaprolaktan that give the water a white glow. In the same area, levels of mercury and PCBs -- highly toxic compounds believed to be carcinogenic and now banned in the US -- multiplied standard levels by hundreds to thousands of times. DDT has been found exceeding acceptable limits by up to 21,000 times. Here the stench is also unbearable. And Levashov estimates there are up to 60 such waste dumps, although not all as dramatic."

As you might imagine, living 30 miles from one of the most polluted places on the face of the earth, and ministering there, can be potentially hazardous to your health. Much of the drinking water for our city comes from the river were the chemical plants pour the waste materials. Much of the produce we eat is grown in soil heavily comtaminated with PCBs, dioxins, DDT and heavey metals As you read this and think about us, the believers and other residents of this area , please pray for our health and safety.

Mike and Karen

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