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Rudnaya Pristan, Russia

Rudnaya Pristan, Russia

  • Potentially Affected People: N/A
  • Type of Pollutants:Lead
  • Source of Pollution: Lead Smelting

The Problem

Dalnegorsk and Rudnaya Pristan are two towns in the Russian Far East whose residents suffer from serious lead poisoning from an old smelter and the unsafe transport of lead concentrate from the local lead mining site. Limited initial testing has revealed that children's blood lead levels are 8 to 20 times the maximum allowable U.S. levels.

Health Impacts

Lead affects human health in many different ways.  Scientists use many tests to protect the public from harmful effects of toxic chemicals and to find ways for treating persons who have been harmed.

One way to learn whether a chemical will harm people is to determine how the body absorbs, uses, and releases the chemical. For some chemicals, animal testing may be necessary. Animal testing may also help identify health effects such as cancer or birth defects. Without laboratory animals, scientists would lose a basic method for getting information needed to make wise decisions that protect public health. Scientists have the responsibility to treat research animals with care and compassion. Scientists must comply with strict animal care guidelines because laws today protect the welfare of research animals.

The effects of lead are the same whether it enters the body through breathing or swallowing. The main target for lead toxicity is the nervous system, both in adults and children. Long-term exposure of adults to lead at work has resulted in decreased performance in some tests that measure functions of the nervous system. Lead exposure may also cause weakness in fingers, wrists, or ankles. Lead exposure also causes small increases in blood pressure, particularly in middle-aged and older people. Lead exposure may also cause anemia. At high levels of exposure, lead can severely damage the brain and kidneys in adults or children and ultimately cause death. In pregnant women, high levels of exposure to lead may cause miscarriage. High-level exposure in men can damage the organs responsible for sperm production.

Status of Clean-Up Activity

The lead smelter has now voluntarily shut down, after Blacksmith presented the owner with data on the health risks to children of lead contamination. In addition, children’s blood lead levels are being tested, and those with elevated levels are being treated with Blacksmith funding. This town in the Russian Far East was one of the first lead smelters in the country, and has left a legacy of contamination throughout the town. Blacksmith has also supported a program of education to all residents, and local education and testing through the community is ongoing. Now, a plan to remediate the worst of the contamination needs to be drawn up and implemented.