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Industrial cities of Ukraine are polluted by heavy metals and dioxins, a new study of the Czech experts discovers

11. 12. 2018,
Industrial cities of Ukraine are polluted by heavy metals and dioxins, a new study of the Czech experts discovers
Kryvyi Rih. PHOTO: Stanislav Krupař / Arnika

The Czech-Ukrainian team of experts discovered the increased contamination of the environment in Dnipro, Kryvyi Rih, Zaporizhia, Kharkiv, and Mariupol (1). Five major industrial cities are polluted by heavy metals (2) and persistent organic pollutants (3). Measured levels can threaten human health and issues must be further investigated, the environmentalists urge. Research was conducted by the non-governmental organizations, Arnika (Czech Republic) and Ecoaction (Ukraine), and financed by the Transition Promotion Program of the Czech Republic (4).

“We found several sites with heavy metals and organic pollutants. The bridge-polluted river sediments were found in Kharkiv and Zaporizhia, especially cadmium and zinc. It is necessary to continue with the analysis of the environment and protect the population,” Marek Šír, an expert from the University of Chemistry and Technology in Prague, summarizes the results.

“Serious contamination of free-range egg samples by dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in Kharkiv, Mariupol, and Kryvyi Rih was discovered. Persistent organic pollutant contamination may also occur in other home-grown food sources. The situation in Kryvyi Rih seems to be disturbing the bridge,” Jitka Strakova, Arnika’s expert on toxics and waste, adds.

“Although the industrial plants are visible, the pollution is not. Our objective was to check to what extent the polluted air affects the environment, and thus, the health of the inhabitants. Levels of contamination may not seem to be that at first sight. However, the samples were not collected in factories, but in residential areas. Since the industry has polluted sand in playgrounds, we have a serious issue,” says Maksym Soroka, expert on environmental protection and co-author of the study.

Ukraine suffers from northern air pollution, causing tens of thousands of deaths every year (5), while it is the most energy-intensive country in the world and the sixth largest producer of CO2 per capita. (6). Experts urge to identify potential sources of pollution and carry out on-going research that would detect the spread of contamination from the heavy industry. Broader sampling should be organized to get a more complex picture on possible food contamination.

“Ukraine has taken on a commitment to implement the Industrial Emissions Directive of the EU. One of the key objectives of this legislation is to reduce the environmental impact of industrial enterprises. The results of the new research clearly indicate how relevant this task is,” Olena Miskun, coordinator of Local Communities Support Department of Ecoaction, says.

Kateřina Krejčová, project coordinator from Arnika, adds: “Implementation of the best available techniques and best environmental practices is a crucial task. Heavy industrial plants have to improve their technologies.”

An international team has collected 88 samples of river sediments, sand from playgrounds, and free-range poultry eggs. The samples were analyzed in certified laboratories of the University of Chemistry and Technology, Prague. The Czech city of Ostrava has also recently hosted the international conference on industrial air pollution, which discussed the situation in Ukraine (7, 8).

Contacts for media:
Martin Holzknecht (Arnika), press officer: (+420) 602 850 912,
Valentyn Pugachov (Ecoaction), head of media department:
Katerina Krejcova (Arnika ), project coordinator: (+ 420) 606 697 730,

Notes for editors:

1) Impact of pollution on inhabitants and the environment in five industrial cities of Ukraine: Overview of the research and its results:

2) Industrial Ukraine. Impact of pollution on inhabitants and the environment in five industrial cities:

3) Use of free-range poultry eggs as the indicator of the pollution in Eastern Ukraine. Results of sampling conducted in 2018:

4) Czech experts are collecting new data on air pollution in Ukraine (press release of Arnika and Ecoaction, 10. 9. 2018):

5) According to the data of the World Health Organization, Ukraine ranked first in mortality from air pollution per capita, with 120 deaths per ten thousand inhabitants in 2012. China tops WHO list for deadly outdoor air pollution

6) Global Energy Statistical Yearbook 2018:

7) Air pollution: Governments and cities have to do more, agreed the participants of the international conference:

8) Arnika (CZ) and Ecoaction (UA) cooperate with the Stop Poisoning Ukraine coalition. Representatives of its member civic initiatives comment on the new research:

KRYVYI RIH: Anna Ambrosova, civic initiative ‘Stop Poisoning Kryvyi Rih’: “Kryvyi Rih is a centre of metallurgy and mining. ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih steelworks themselves lead Ukrainian emissions rating and all our plants take the first places in the industrial waste production. Negative environmental impacts of the companies were now confirmed once again by the results of new studies of the Czech experts. Concentrations of heavy metals in river sediments and in the sand in playgrounds, benzopyrene in the river sediments and dioxins in poultry eggs are very concerning. Pollution of our urban areas requires further research. There is a need for immediate steps of industrial enterprises, city authorities and the state level institutions, as well as of the citizens.”

MARIUPOL: Maksym Borodin, deputy of the city of Mariupol (Power of the People): “It is not the first year when Mariupol ranks the first position in the Air Pollution Index of Ukraine, according to the data of Hydrometeorological Institution. On one hand, two large metallurgical enterprises fill in the city budget; on the other hand, they destroy potential of Mariupol to build its future on tourism, attracting visitors of Azov Sea. When collecting samples in the playgrounds, we understood that the figures would most likely not please us, taking into account the out-dated gas filtration systems at the major part of facilities in both plants. The results show a need to replace the top layer of sand in order to protect health of our children. However, it is only a temporary measure. The main task is to push the owner of Metinvest, Rinat Akhmetov, to speed up modernization of the factories as much as possible.”

DNIPRO: Maksym Soroka, expert on the environment: “The objective of the studies was not to check emissions of industrial enterprises, it is not our task. We wanted to know how safe it is to live in their vicinity and what the potential health risks for the adults and the children are. The research has identified significant pollution of residential areas of Dnipro. At some spots, estimated carcinogenic risks exceed safety values by dozens times. Too high concentrations of heavy metals and carcinogenic organic compounds have been detected in the sand in playgrounds, which makes them dangerous for children. We are not seeking for the guilty, but open the dialogue with industrial companies, the state authorities and local self-government in order to solve existing environmental issues.”

ZAPORIZHIA: Iryna Pyrogova, leader of local civic initiatives: “Zaporizhia is a typical old-fashioned industrial city. What is not so usual is the location of the metallurgical complex in the very city centre at the windward side. In total, 60 % of production capacities of the region are concentrated in our industrial zone. Technologies of the 19th century with the equipment from the 1930s are no longer able to ensure compliance with up-to-date environmental standards. Statistics show that emissions are decreasing. However, at the same time, mortality rate in the region in 2017 was by 10.3 % higher than the average in a whole country. There are no safe levels of exposure of the people to polluted air. It gets equally to the lungs of the factories owners, the officials, and our children. New analyses have once again confirmed the need for more thorough research of the impact of industrial pollution on human health and the environment. It should become the priority of the government and political parties.”


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Clean Air for Ukraine

This project is led by a non-governmental organization Arnika (Czech Republic) in cooperation with local civic initiatives in industrial towns of Ukraine with financial support from the Transition Promotion Program of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.

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