Asopos ‘contaminating food’

20 02 2009

Source: Kathimerini Newspaper

High traces of toxins in river water have tainted agricultural produce on sale in shops, street markets, study finds

New laboratory tests have shown that toxic substances in the water of the Asopos River in central Greece are also present in the agricultural produce being sold in the street markets and supermarkets of Athens.

According to research being carried out by chemists at Athens University, vegetables being sold at markets and stores contain high traces of toxic chemicals such as nickel and chromium that could be damaging to the health of consumers. Tests on carrots, for example, revealed concentrations of 663 micrograms (mcg) of nickel per kilogram, nearly six times higher than the international maximum level. Onions also were found to contain a high concentration of nickel – some 574 mcg per kg. Carrots produced on farms in Thebes also revealed exceptionally high concentrations of chromium – some 95 mcg per kg, more than 10 times the maximum of 8 mcg. «It is more than clear that these substances are passing into agricultural produce,» a researcher said. Experts note that depleted chromium – the highly toxic substance that tests have detected in water in the Asopos River – changes its chemical composition in the transfer from water to food. «But this does not mean that it can change back to depleted chromium,» one expert remarked.

Residents claim that high traces of depleted chromium in the water have caused an increase in cancer-related deaths. These charges have not been scientifically proven.

But the Athens University team has confirmed research by the Agricultural University of Athens, finding that river water has a concentration of 148 mcg of depleted chromium per kg. The Agricultural University also found that local water was not suitable for irrigation, let alone drinking.

Last month European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas condemned authorities for failing to stop local manufacturers from dumping toxic waste into the Asopos River, which also supplies millions of Athenians with drinking water.

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