Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Lebanese oil spill carries cancer risk: UN

Lebanese oil spill carries cancer risk: UN

ROME, Aug 8, 2006 (AFP) - The oil spill caused by Israeli raids on a Lebanese power plant poses a cancer risk to the people of Lebanon and Syria, the United Nations warned Tuesday.

"The presence of the fuel oil on the coasts of Lebanon and Syria exposes people in the zones affected to a heightened risk of cancer," said Simonetta Lombardo of the Mediterranean Action Plan, an agency of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

An estimated 10,000 tonnes of fuel oil spilled from the plant at Jiyyeh, 25 kilometres south of Beirut after Israeli warplanes attacked it on July 14, according to the Lebanese authorities, and a further 20,000 tonnes have subseqently leaked out.

At least 120 kilometres (75 miles) of the Lebanese and Syrian coastlines are polluted and the spill "is a high-risk toxic cocktail made up of substances which cause cancer and damage to the endocrine system," Lombardo told reporters in Rome.

"It is not oil that has flowed but fuel for power statioms," she said at a news conference.
"This contains substances such as benzene, categorised as a Class 1 carcinogen."

Furthermore "chemical compounds that are highly volatile, especially in the presence of high temperatures have dispersed (in the air) from the power plant," UN experts said.

"The first people exposed to the risk from breathing in 'toxic spray' (also made up of benzene) are the inhabitants of Beirut -- two million people living in the metropolitan region," they said.

"Since last Sunday the coastline of Lebanon has seen large quantities of dead fish, attributable to pollution caused by fuel oil," the UN agency said.

It fears the food chain could become contaminated.


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