Greenpeace warns of chronic pollution levels

  • 2001-04-26
  • Jorgen Johansson
RIGA - The international environmental organization Greenpeace warned on April 23 that pollution levels in the Baltics are above critical, and that the entire Baltic Sea region should be considered a toxic hotspot.

The organization recognizes that the nine countries bordering the Baltic Sea have made efforts to reduce pollution over the past three decades, but according to their latest report: "Evidence suggests that levels of some of the toxic chemicals authorities have been trying to reduce, including dioxins and PCBs, did not go down during the 1990s."

Greenpeace scientist and author of the report Michelle Allsopp said in a written statement that exposure to even a small amount of these chemicals can cause serious diseases in humans.

"The industries responsible for releasing these pollutants must start using alternatives and safe methods if the Baltic eco-system is to be saved and the health of people protected," she said.

Finland and Sweden have warned their citizens not to eat certain kinds of fish coming from the Baltic countries. In Sweden, young women have been advised not to eat Baltic salmon, trout or herring more than once a month, and the general population has been warned not to eat them more than once a week.

Evija Smite, head of the marine environmental division at the Marine Environmental Board, said people need not be afraid of eating Baltic fish, since the toxic levels in them is harmless.

"The levels of pollution in the fish here is even lower than in some Scandinavian countries," Smite said. "We are monitoring harmful substances in fish tissue, mainly the liver, and we have found traces of heavy metals but at a very low level."

She said it is impossible to determine whether toxic levels in Latvian fish is on the rise or not. The marine environmental board has only been monitoring fish for the past two years.

Recently, 15 Greenpeace activists dumped 200 kilos of Baltic fish outside the Ministry of Environment in Stockholm, demanding that all Baltic governments act now to stop persistent organic pollutants.

"It is nothing less than a tragedy that Baltic fish have become so polluted by industry and irresponsible politicians that authorities have to restrict peoples' intake of it," Greenpeace campaigner Wytze van der Naald said. "It is a stark reminder of what the future holds if these years of unregulated environmental abuse are allowed to continue."

Latvia's National Environmental Center recently tested Latvian waters and is currently awaiting the results. A spokeswoman for the center said the results usually vary from year to year, but that the overall level of pollution is basically unchanged.

Riga Environmental Board Director Raimonds Vejoris said Latvia is taking steps to curb pollution.

"We are right now building a new waste water treatment plant to improve the quality of our drinking water," he said.