||RAMSES THE GREAT
Pharaoh Who Made Peace With His Enemies And The First Peace Treaty In History
Quran, not only a linguistic miracle but a scientific one
The River Nile, the Life of Egypt
By leading scientist and environmentalist
Looks can be deceiving. The picturesque
Nile River, the life of Egypt is becoming a serious hazard to people. Its water is
containing a chemical stew of heavy metals, dioxins, PCBs, DDT and other pesticides,
untreated human and animal waste and disease carrying bacteria.
Some came from local industry and farm runoff, some came from industry upstream and some
came from all the untreated waste from villages, towns and cities near its banks. Some of
the pollutants exceed allowable levels; some don't. For many chemicals, safe, permissible
level for exposure is not known yet.
In an effort to grow more food and better quality food, to substitute for the rich silt
that has been lost after Aswan High Dam, the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides
and herbicides have increased dramatically. Extensive use of pesticides derived from
chlorinated hydrocarbons, like DDT, to combat insects, like Cotton worms, has had
disastrous effects on the environment. These organic compounds with halogens (Fluorine or
chorine or bromine) in their molecular structures are highly persistent and resist
bio-degradation for decades. They are not easily soluble in water, they tend to cling to
plant tissues and accumulate in soils, the bottom mud of streams and ponds.
They are easily dispersed in the atmosphere. Carried by wind, especially from aerial
spraying which has been going on for the past twenty years, the pesticides are
distributed, contaminating people, animals and everything even in areas far removed from
agricultural regions. They enter the food chain in the plants that the plant eaters and we
consume. They can be also absorbed directly through the skin by such aquatic organisms as
fish. The pesticide is further concentrated as it passes from plant eating species to
predators. It becomes highly concentrated in the tissues of animals at the end of the food
chain. Because of the dangers of pesticides to wildlife and to humans, and because insects
have acquired resistance to them, the use of halogenated hydrocarbons such as DDT
has been banned in the Developed countries like USA & Canada and most of western
Europe, although large quantities are still shipped to developing countries. In the early
1980's DDT and other halogenated pesticides like Ethylene Dibromide (EDB) also aroused
great concern as a potential carcinogen (cancer causing substance).
Yet to date, The Egyptian Ministry of agriculture, put calls for bids from Swiss and
German companies, for pesticides that are banned in the developed countries. The amount
purchased is enough to give every man and woman and child in Egypt half to one and half
grams a year. Although this may not be enough to be fatal, it is sufficient to cause
serious health problems over the years. That is why kidney and liver failure have become
epidemic in Egypt. Cancer cases have risen sharply. Roughly, only roughly 1% of the
pesticide used is consumed in killing the pests; the rest end up in water and air.
Closely related to DDT is another group of chemical compounds: the poly-chlorinated
biphenyls, or PCBs. PCBs are one of the most harmful chemicals that can escape into the
environment. It was widely used as an insulator and cooling material in electrical
transformers and as a plasticiziser in paints, waxes and lubricating oils. Exposure to PCB
may result in a range of health problems ranging from skin rash to liver cancer and / or
birth defects. For years these compounds have been used in industrial production, and
eventually they found their way into the environment. Their impact on humans and animals
has been similar to that of pesticides. Because of their extreme toxicity, use of PCBs is
now restricted in developed counties. In Egypt, there are tons of PCBs in electrical
transformers that are not well maintained.
Dioxins, or polychlorinated dibenzo-para-dioxins is the most toxic of a group of highly
toxic chemical compounds that found its way to the environment in the past forty years.
The extent of toxicity of these cancer-causing compounds in humans is still not exactly
known. Dioxins may be found as an impurity in wood and paper preservatives and in the
effluent from pulp and paper mills and in herbicides such as "Agent Orange"
which was used extensively during the Vietnam War as a defoliant.
Two decades ago, there was an explosion of a plant in Italy that caused wide spread
contamination of dioxin. Many pregnant women suffered miscarriages and children of the
affected mothers were born with several deformities. Dioxins are routinely discharged in
the Nile from Cardboard and paper recycling plants in Egypt. These chemicals persist in
the food chain for many years, because of the way they accumulate in animal tissue: the
chemicals, which the body cannot degrade, tend to lodge in fat; animals feeding at the top
of the food chain usually have higher levels because they absorb the chemicals that have
accumulated in their prey. Many of these chemicals continue to be used in Egypt and other
developing countries. Ninety to ninety-five percent of these harmful chemicals that we
absorb, come from the food and water we consume. We now know that many of these chemical
pollutants tend to accumulate in animal fat, and the predators and human beings, at the
top of the food chain, seem to be getting plenty.
Chemicals such as DDT have been recognized to be toxic to some species and can cause birth
defects or reproductive failure among others. Now research indicates that these chemicals,
even at lower concentrations, can have other unexpected effects. Scientists now are
looking at how much of this chemical would be required to cause problems rather than how
much will kill an animal or human. They call it environmentally relevant amount, which can
be much less than the amounts that are normally quoted to pose a danger threshold (serious
damage or death). Then they are comparing that with how many humans are getting that
amount through eating, drinking, and breathing or skin absorption. Often, they found that
we are getting more in our bodies than that environmentally relevant amount. On top of
this, we are getting in our bodies several of these harmful chemicals, which makes matters
worse. Acting in the earliest stages of a fetus development, these chemicals are believed
to affect the hormonal systems, leading to birth defects and behavior abnormalities in
animals. It seems reasonable to conclude, then, that these chemicals pose, a threat to
humans in the same way they affect animals. After all, we are not so different from other
animals. Some scientists believe that the same chemicals might well be pushing our sperm
counts down and our cancer rates up.
The cancer rates have been going up. Furthermore it is very likely that these chemicals
are affecting the behavior of children who were exposed to them before they were born,
even at relatively low levels-levels that their mothers might have had in their bodies
during pregnancies. Fetuses -are particularly sensitive to chemical exposure. When a
pregnant female breaks down her fat reserves, the chemicals migrate into the fetus,
accumulating at concentrations many times per unit weight of the fetus, as the mother's
who weighs much more. Once there, they may affect the fetus far more than in an adult.
These effects in some cases may not become apparent until many years later when exposed
fetus reaches maturity. Even more worrisome are the reports, showing that the chemicals
may already be producing subtle changes in memory and behavior in children exposed to them
before birth? In some cases researchers found that although the children exposure to PCBs
may be considered to be within the range of normal background exposure or safe levels,
problems in their development have occurred. Analysis of mother's milk showed more than
thirty man made chemicals including pesticides and herbicides that should not be there.
Mining & metal industries produce a cocktail of harmful chemicals such as toxic
cyanides, heavy metals, mercury, acids ..etc. as a by-product of their processes. Some of
these effluents inevitably escape to the environment through leakage or seepage to
underground waters. The containment and treatment and environmental regulation and
enforcement are often lacking in Egypt. There is also a serious problem from the use of
leaded gasoline and the increase in number of cars. There are more than 3 million motor
cars in Cairo alone. They are producing lead in the form of Ethyl lead to the atmosphere.
Eventually some of this lead is washed to the river with rain and natural dissolution
process. Every Egyptian who has blanked gums suffers from some degree of lead poisoning.
Lead poisoning causes mental retardation in children and kidney & liver failure after
years of exposure. The human body cannot effectively get rid of lead and other heavy
metals. Untreated human and animal wastes from hundreds of villages and towns along Nile
River are becoming major health hazards to people. Dysentery and gastronomic disease are
epidemic in Egypt.
Samples from the River Nile were analyzed in Canada showed Typhoid, dysentery and even few
chorea bacteria. Moreover, these wastes strip oxygen from the water affecting aquatic life
and causing major problems for navigation because of the plants like Ward El Nil which
thrives on them.
Even the underground water has become contaminated from seepage of the surface water. It
is estimated that the quality of the river Nile has been deteriorating at a compound rate
of two percent a year. That means that in our life time the water from the Nile will not
be fit to drink. Bottled water is just filtered water; the process does not remove
dissolved heavy metals.
Ask your local hospital in Egypt how they dispose of blood, human organs and used
dressings and other bio hazardous waste. I did and I was shocked by the answers. If we
don't do something to improve the situation in Egypt we will be condemning many
generations of Egyptians to poor health, suffering and many needless deaths.
We really cannot afford to be apathetic. Together we have to raise the awareness as the
first step in tackling the problem.
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Who Is Dr. S.Hassanien?
Dr. Salah Hassanien is a 53 year old engineer. He is a leading scientist,
environmentalist. and writer.
Graduated as Chemical Engineer from Alexandria University in 1966, he left for Canada
shortly after. He has been living and working in Canada for almost 33 years.
He has M.Sc. & Ph.D in Chem.Eng from Canada.
He worked in the Nuclear Generation Industry in Canada for 24 years. Sixteen years of them
as the Chief Environmental Engineer.
In the past eight years he has been involved in several capacities in efforts to protect
and restore the environment as consultant,executive of non profit organizations for
A writer & author, he has a weekly column in the Beacon Times (a Canadian newspaper).
He is one of the Directors of Sustainable Development Technologies, a Canadian Non profit
Organization that works world wide to improve conditions.
He has been closely networking with the leading environmentalists in the world like David
Suzuki, Canada, Paul Hawkins, US & Dr. Karl Hinich Roberts in Sweden.
He has been studying & watching the environmental conditions and experiences
the developing world. He worked in several countries in the world as an environmental
consultant. Last mission was in disaster relief in Guatemala and Honduras after hurricane
He is the first Vice President of district 9 of the International Lions Club and the
Director of economic development in Port Elgin & District Chamber of Commerce.
Dr. Salah Hassanien interest is only to serve and share whatever he has in knowledge and
experience with others who are willing to improve the environmental conditions in Egypt
for the sake of the younger and future generations.
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