Turkey leads as the first Mediterranean country to dispose of its Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) contaminated equipment in collaboration with UNEP/MAP.
Athens – 27 April 2015: Turkey has started packing and shipping to France its transformers contaminated with PCBs, from electricity and industrial companies. The process of decontamination and disposal of the toxic substance in France is expected to last from 10 to 12 weeks, at the end of which, Turkey would have disposed of 634 tons of PCBs.
This activity comes within the framework of the MedPartnership project, led by UNEP/MAP and funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and is being implemented in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt, and Turkey by the MAP MED POL programme and Sustainable Consumption and Production Regional Activity Centre (SCP/RAC).
"PCB degradation is a very slow and difficult process. These chemicals can linger for centuries, polluting the environment and, therefore, affecting human health and nature for generations to come, said Gaetano Leone, UNEP/MAP Coordinator. We are proud for having been able to assist in the disposal of such significant amounts of pollutants, and we are confident that the impact of this important activity by the MAP system will be very beneficial for the state of the Mediterranean environment, especially once the activity is completed in all four countries".
|What are PCBs?
PCBs are highly toxic pollutants, one of the most harmful persistent organic chemicals to be manufactured by man, and very long-lasting (over 100 years). They cause immunotoxicity, skin problems, reproductive alterations and cancer in animals, particularly in marine species such as the common seal, whale and salmon. Being bioaccumulative, PCBs are passed on to other animals through the food chain until they reach human beings. Repeated exposure to even small quantities of PCBs can cause damage to the liver and neurological and immune systems.
PCB-containing equipment such as old transformers, TVs, fluorescent lights, and fridges, are still in use and must be replaced with PCB-free alternatives. They should be handled and discarded carefully to avoid any leaking out in the environment, and delivered to appropriate destruction facilities.
Training experts to handle PCBs
Within the framework of the same project, around 300 national experts were trained on PCB Environmentally Sound Management in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt and Turkey. The four countries were provided with portable semi-mobile analyzers, with guidelines and required chemical reagents to carry out their inventories of PCBs.
Prior to the start of the PCBs disposal activity in Turkey, early March, the MED POL programme had also trained 39 local experts on handling PCBs in Izmit and Istanbul, with the support of the Turkish Ministry of Environment and Urbanization.
Experts were trained on the drainage and labeling of transformers, packaging liquid PCB, loading PCB following standards and recommendations of the European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR) and the International Maritime Dangerous Goods code (IMDG) before transporting them.
It is expected that the PCBs disposal activities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Egypt will start in May. By December 2015, it is estimated that Bosnia and Herzegovina will have disposed of 113 tons of PCBs, and Egypt of 185 tons of PCBs.