WWF survey suggests Czech Environment Minister has toxic blood

Libor Ambrozek

This week, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) released the results of a survey conducted in June to test the effects air pollution has on our health. Fourteen EU Environment Ministers agreed to give blood samples to determine how many and what kind of man-made chemicals are in their bodies. Czech Environment Minister Libor Ambrozek was one of them and his result was especially shocking.

Libor Ambrozek
Of the fourteen ministers who took part in the experiment, only one was worse off than Mr Ambrozek - his Slovak counterpart, Laslo Miklos. Although Minister Ambrozek is only 38 years old, his blood contained large amounts of DDT and other chemicals:

"I thought that I was young enough not to have so many chemicals in my blood. This proves that socialist agricultural measures have left a mark on the southern Moravian mellow countryside that I grew up in. The amount of polychlorinated biphenyls and DDT was higher than usual. All I can do is hope that the pollution will not affect the next generations. I was glad to see that I had lower quantities of phthalates than other EU ministers. It must have been because I didn't get any rubber toys when I was young. All I had was wooden toys, and later books; so I guess that's fine."

Of the 103 chemicals that the ministers were tested for, fifty-five of them were found - some of which are banned in the EU. The most common banned substances were brominated flame retardants, Phthalates, Pefluorinated chemicals, that are found in water or grease-resistant coatings for pizza and french-fry boxes, clothes, carpets and even pans and organo-chlorine pesticides, such as DDT.

Jindrich Petrlik is from the Czech association Arnika:

"At least half of the chemicals tested for are no longer in use or were banned as long as twenty years ago. Unlike Minister Ambrozek, I do not believe that we are talking about effects from past pollutions. In his blood, we also found high amounts of polybrominated biphenyls. That is a group of substances that replaced polychlorinated biphenyls and are used as flame retardants on carpets, curtains, computers, and so on."

...and why were most chemicals found in the Slovak Environment Minister's blood? Minister Ambrozek again:

Libor Ambrozek with his WWF results
"I can only speculate that my Slovak colleague was worse off than me because he is older. But, the results do show that Czechoslovakia was severely contaminated with most of the chemicals tested. In comparison to other European ministers, the amounts of DDT were quite high."

The WWF hopes the tests will highlight the almost complete absence of publicly available safety information on most chemicals in everyday use and stimulate debate on REACH - new EU rules to identify and phase out the most harmful chemicals. Up to date, no-one knows what effect most chemicals found in the ministers have on the human body.