Ecological problems in Sosnivka
Sosnivka is a typical Western Ukraine mining town. It was founded in 1957 and is located 65 km north of the regional center, the city of Lviv. Sosnivka occupies 1.98 square km. The city's population totals 11,800 inhabitants, including 2,500 children. In the city there is a specialized school, two general schools, one music school, a house of culture, two kindergartens, and a hospital. There are no industrial enterprises in the city proper.
Earlier, Sosnivka was very clean and quaint. Picturesque woodlands surrounded the city. However, with the development of the coal industry, the situation has changed. Today on the edge of the city there are three coal mines as well as a central coal-processing factory, "Chervonogradska", which is the biggest enterprise in Europe for the enrichment of coal. This factory, in operation since 1985, is also the main source of air, water, and soil pollution in the region.
During the Soviet period of our history, the environment was not an approved topic of conversation. Communist propaganda asserted that the environment was only damaged in capitalist countries, because capitalists, in their pursuit of profits, did not focus on anything but those profits. Meanwhile, the region around Sosnivka gradually turned into an environmental nightmare. Now slagheaps and mine-tailings occupy hundreds of hectares, and mining equipment occupies even larger areas. An environmental examination has shown that the region's soil, drinking water, and air are polluted by heavy metal salts and chemical elements of the first and second risk group: strontium, manganese, cobalt, fluorine, sodium, barium, iron, mercury, cadmium, phosphorus, lead, and others.
From the conclusion of an independent environmental examination: “ … The presence of fluorine and heavy metals in the soil and water results in their accumulation in plants, which are themselves consumed by people and animals. The most polluted type of plant were the root crops. The results indicate that among the researched elements, the greatest excess of contents in: lead (for potatoes and corn the levels of lead exceed allowable limits by more than two orders of magnitude; for beets greater than one order of magnitude); nickel (for potatoes and beets, the average exceeds limits by up to one order of magnitude, and in grass, up to 1.5 orders of magnitude); manganese (a small excess (up to 2-3 times) in beet and corn, and greater than an order of magnitude in grass and potatoes); fluorine (for potatoes 6-8 times the average parameter for Ukraine and Russia, and for fodder beet up to 10 times) …”
Health of children
In the early 1990 s, local dentists began to notice white, yellow, brown, and black stains on children's permanent teeth. The children’s dentist faculty of Lviv medical university studied eight children. The diagnosis given: hypoplasia of tooth enamel and fluorosis. The number of sick children steadily increased. Searches for the reason of the outbreak began. Many commissions and scientists came to Sosnivka to investigate children's health and environmental pollution. The problem was taken up on the state level. According to order 759 from December 11, 1995 of then Prime Minister of Ukraine E. Marchuk, a governmental commission was created, under the authority of the head public health doctor of Ukraine. All commissions concluded that the reason for the outbreak of disease among the children was industrial pollution of the environment.
From the conclusion of an independent environmental examination: “… High concentrations of pollutants, which collect in the body, negatively affect from the beginning of the mineralization process and are the reason for different problems in organs and systems. Children who live in the mining region of Western Ukraine have abnormal and sharply abnormal physical development, which manifests as low height because the children's bone growth is slowed as a consequence of living in the polluted territory (PT). PT children have changes in the micro and macro-elemental condition of their blood and hair. According to the results of the analysis, in comparison to standards, PT children have elevated levels of: Cr in blood and hair (2 times); Cd, in blood by an order of magnitude, and in hair up to two orders of magnitude; Pb in blood by 1.5 times. In comparison to regional standards, in PT children there are lowered levels in blood of Fe, Cu, and Zn by 1.5 times, Mn up to 2 times, and in children’s hair, sharply lowered levels of Fe and Mn (almost 3 times), Zn (7 times)… ”
This must have an effect on health of children.
From the conclusion of an independent environmental examination:
Chronic digestive tract problems - 53 %
Relapsing and chronic bronchi-lung diseases - 25.5 %
Chronic ENT infections - 87 %
Neuroses - 26,4 %
Bad changes in body -21,2 %
Myopia - 9,1 %
Different kinds of allergies - 27 %
Disruption of salt exchange - 48 %
Disembryonic stigma - 79,3 %
Hypoplasia of tooth enamel - 68 %
Widespread sores, neuro-derma, severe form of bronchial asthma, and others.
In 80 % of children the general symptoms of intoxication were observed:
Headache - 73,3 %
Dizziness - 38,6 %
Sensation of weakness - 39,7 %
Insomnia - 6,4 %
Premature weariness - 39,7 %
Vomiting - 17,3 %
Reduced appetite - 27,7 %
Pains in heart - 27,7 %
Stomach pain - 19,8 %
Pains in joints and muscles - 6.4 %
Nosebleeds -33 %
Fluorine had an especially harmful influence on children's health. Fluorine exceeded allowed levels in drinking water by 3-4 times. Today, because of fluorine intoxication, 68 % of Sosnivka's children suffer from fluorosis and hypoplasia of their teeth, and 540 children have the severe form of the illness.
Fluorosis is not only a cosmetic tooth problem -- it strikes nearly all organs and systems of a child's body. Additionally, the discoloring of their teeth affects the child's mentality and leads to feelings of inferiority. For example, some children have learned to smile without opening their mouths, and high schoolers and graduates are familiar with procedure of getting false teeth.
What does the future hold for these children, victims of fluorine intoxication? No commission or scientist can answer.
What is being done?
Today, experts can not yet offer effective methods of treatment for fluorosis and hypoplasia. They recommend to that children be provided with environmentally untainted meals and regular rest in environmentally clean places. Each summer the state finances health-improving vacations to the Carpathians. On average, about 400 children from Sosnivka are funded, which accounts for 20% of the common need.
Despite the catastrophic consequences of environmental pollution, Sosnivka does not have official status as a “zone of an extreme environmental situation ”. The official state structures, understanding that correcting the situation would require a considerable amount of money, have assumed a waiting position: children will grow up and spread around the world, because in Sosnivka there are no jobs. Having the appropriate indication, doctors for 9 years did not diagnose children with “fluorosis” on dispensary accounts, in spite of the fact that authorizes МОЗ of Ukraine on the list of illnesses, fluorosis is a basis for a dispensary account of illnesses. In the local hospital for these same 9 years, there has been no improvement in the material base of the dentistry branch. The official medical statistics of fluorosis and hypoplasia patients list only children of school age; that is, children who have finished school are already “healthy”. This position has drawn protests on the part of Sosnivka's population.
The parents of sick children, have led four environmental protests for the protection of the environment and the rights of sick children, which demand from the highest bodies of authority:
- To recognize Sosnivka as a zone of an extreme environmental situation;
- To recognize that the population of Sosnivka suffers from an extreme environmental situation;
- To develop a state program for remediation of the situation;
- To provide 100 % financing for health-improving vacations for children in environmentally clean regions; - and others.
They also address human rights, environmental, charitable Ukrainian and International non-governmental organizations for support and help. Worn-out from unreplied correspondence with high-level beaurocrats, the parents are prepared to protect their rights in the courts.
The parents of children have created, with the goal of solving our environmental and other, related problems, an NGO was formed in Sosnivka:
Charitable fund “Eco-mercy”
The main goals of the fund are to:
- Help children who suffer from the effects from environmental pollution;
- Facilitate the development of nature-protecting organizations;
- Participation in granting medical assistance to Sosnivka's population;
- Assist in the development of public health services, physical education, sports and tourism, environmental education, and related subjects.
Through voluntary donations, the Fund is constructing a children's charitable dentistry center in Sosnivka.
The fund searches for partners at local, state, and international levels among non-governmental, scientific, educational, medical, charitable or commercial organizations, or private citizens ready to help with solving Sosnivka's environmental problems.
Additional information can be received from:
Charitable Fund “Eco-mercy”
Halytska 2a str., Sosnivka 80193, Lviv Region, Ukraine.
tel + 380637830955
Fund president: Pavlo Savchuk