Red alert on pesticides

Pollution from pesticides and insecticides in various parts of Greece has risen dangerously, while similar toxic substances have been detected in olive oil as well as imported fruit and vegetables on sale in Athens and Thessaloniki, scientists warned yesterday. Research has shown that certain categories of pesticides and insecticides, which are used in abundance by Greek farmers, can cause severe hormonal disturbances and fertility problems in human beings. A series of studies on the concentration, in Greek waters and agricultural products, of toxic substances used in farming are to be presented at an international conference opening in Halkidiki tomorrow. Conference organizing committee chairman Triantafyllos Albanis, head of Ioannina University’s environmental protection laboratory, told Kathimerini that pesticides and insecticides were heavily present in at least two of the country’s closed gulfs, and in a river in Macedonia. «In the Amvrakikos Gulf [in western Greece] and the Thermaic Gulf [off Thessaloniki] the concentrations of pesticides and insecticides are very close to the maximum toxicity levels for fish and shellfish, while in the Loudias River, concentrations are already over the limit for many species,» he said. «Recent research by the General State Laboratories detected residues of pesticides in olive oil from the Ionian Islands, mainly Corfu and Paxoi. Although these substances are under the maximum permissible limits, they appear very frequently, which is a strong indication of environmental degradation.» Furthermore, according to Albanis, Thessaloniki University studies on fruit and vegetables on sale in the country’s two largest population centers detected high concentrations of pesticides in fruit and vegetables imported from Spain. Pesticides and insecticides can have horrific effects on the endocrine system. «Studies conducted on humans and animals have shown that banned insecticides remain present in the food chain, mainly in shellfish, fish and certain vegetables,» Albanis said. «There are strong indications that such substances can cause rapid maturity in females, weakening of the male sexual organs, and problems in the reproductive process.»