Compiled by Chalani Rubasinghe (B.Sc, M.Sc)

Edited by Hemantha Withanage

Ship X-press Pearl is now fully sunk. Everyone worry about a possible oil spill. Me too. Did they tell you it was a toxic ship. Don’t forget the billions of plastic pellets came to the seashore will last next 500 years to 1000 years. They don’t act like, containers, bags, Metric tonnes or kilograms. Each single plastic pellet is an environmental threat. You may collect some 50%. But rest will remain in the coast among sand.Don’t forget the carbon emission and its contribution to climate change. The emission may close to one day emission of across the country. It is like burning a industrial complex. We don’t know what was in that black smoke. Probably you and I may have already inhaled. Specially people live in Colombo. If there were some carcinogens, beware. Beware more. It was a toxic ship. Almost half of the containers are either hazardous or environmentally harmful substances. The scientist, authorities, the ship owners and politicians are silent on this matter. They are trying to say that everything is now burnt. I am wondering why university academics, chemical experts or health experts are doing even after we shared the ship manifesto. Don’t they understand impacts. Here it is.The ship seems to have been carrying around 42 different chemicals and around 45 different materials (out of declared goods) that possibly contain hazardous chemicals. while some are known toxics, some are not chemicals of concern in its pure state. However, since these chemicals were ignited and also mixed into waters, their damage would be through multiple species such as the pure chemical, byproducts in burning and byproducts in mixing with water. For example; “lead ingots” if burned could emit lead vapour and cause air-borne lead contamination. Also, though plastic pellet seemingly cause only a physical pollution, they can adsorb other pollutants in water and transfer them through the food chain, or else if burned, could emit other hazardous endocrine disruptive chemicals such as Dioxin, Furans, Mercury and Polychlorinated Biphenyls into the atmosphere. Human, aquatic organisms and even airborne creatures could be exposed to these chemicals through contaminated air, water, soil and through the food chain. Some of these chemicals are bioaccumulative and can magnify along the food chain. The effect on human and other organisms could both be chronic or acute. Which means some of the poisoning symptoms will take time to appear while some show immediate results. Massive number of ocean creatures were already found dead along the coastal belt. Although the effect on humans is not yet prominently shown, it should be understood that depending on one’s immunity level, nutrient intake, hormone functioning, age, gender, chronic diseases, duration and frequency of exposure and route of exposure, effect of these chemicals can vary on different people. Besides, most of these chemicals such as plastic pellets that were carrying other pollutants from the water, vapor of lead and other heavy metals, endocrine disruptive chemicals that has probably generated in burning plastics, textiles and other materials that were containing or contaminated with such chemicals, result long-term chronic poisoning than short-term acute poisoning. Indicated below is an analysis of hazardous effects related to chemicals that were found to have been carrying onboard. The container with Environmentally hazardous substance liquid, if mixed into waters could obviously damage the aquatic life. The company so far has not declared what those substances are? Can they transport such chemicals together with food items and with general cargo? Marine Pollution Prevention Authority should tell us what are those chemicals/ Caustic soda or Sodium hydroxide is very corrosive. It is generally used as a solid or a 50% solution.Contact may severely irritate skin, eyes, and mucous membranes. Toxic by ingestion. Corrosive to metals and tissue. Caustic Soda Flakes 99%, (Pure Sodium hydroxide NaOH), has hygroscopic properties, that is very hazardous in case of skin contact (corrosive, irritant, permeating), eye contact (irritant, corrosive), ingestion, or inhalation. Eye contact can even result in corneal damage or blindness.Methanol is a highly flammable chemical. Denatonium benzoate is sold under the trade name of Bitrex.The purpose of adding denatonium benzoate to methanol (Methanol -Britex added) is to change the taste of the product just enough to prevent someone, especially children, from eating a substance that could cause them harm.It could be assumed that if caught in fire, the chemical is totally burnt emitting carbon dioxide and water vapour. If mixed with water, Methanol is of low toxicity to aquatic and terrestrial organisms. Methanol is readily degraded in the environment by photooxidation and by biodegradation processes. Methanol is readily degradable under both aerobic and anaerobic conditions in a broad spectrum of environmental media including fresh and salt water, sediments and soils, ground water, aquifer material and industrial wastewater.High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) and Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) are non toxic, non hazardous materials, but contribute to plastic pollution. Plastic macroparticles, microparticles, and nanoparticles have the potential to affect marine ecosystems and human health. Polystyrene contains the toxic substances Styrene and Benzene, suspected carcinogens and neurotoxins that are hazardous to humans. Hot foods and liquids actually start a partial breakdown of the Styrofoam, causing some toxins to be absorbed into our bloodstream and tissue. When burning,inhalation of plastic fumes can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, respiratory side effects such as aggravated asthma, skin irritations, headaches, nervous system damage, and other organ damage such as the kidney, liver, and reproductive system. Sodium Methoxide and Sodium Methylate react with water to form sodium hydroxide, a corrosive material, and methyl alcohol, a flammable liquid.Ingestion of methanol is toxic and may cause blindness.May be harmful if inhaled. Material is extremely destructive to the tissue of the mucous, membranes and upper respiratory tract. Skin Harmful if absorbed through skin. Causes skin burns, and eye burns. Ingestion Harmful if swallowed.Lead compounds are not particularly mobile in the aquatic environment but can be toxic to organisms, especially fish, at low concentrations. Water hardness, pH and dissolved organic carbon content are factors which regulate the degree of toxicity. In soil, lead is generally not very mobile or bioavailable as it can become strongly sorbed on soil particles, increasingly so over time, to a degree dependent on soil properties. Lead bioaccumulates in plants and animals in both the terrestrial and aquatic environments.In view of their high eco-toxicity and low biodegradability, mineral oil-based lubricants make up a considerable threat to the environment.Epoxy Resin, plastic are not considered degradable or toxic in terms of their physical impact. Pellets left at large (spills) in the general environment may be ingested by animals. Material is expected to have low aquatic toxicity because of its insolubility in water. Aquatic toxicity studies conducted with caprolactam indicate LC50 (mg/L) values >> 100 ppm in fish (fathead minnow, bluegill, channel catfish) and invertebrates (Daphnia magna).If these fabrics contain or contaminate with Brominated Flame retardants, Phthalates or any other toxic chemical, burning these textiles and or can result in air and water pollution with these endocrine disruptive chemicals.Nitric acid, red fuming appears as a pale yellow to reddish brown liquid generating red-brown fumes and having a suffocating odor. Very toxic by inhalation. Corrosive to metals or tissue. Prolonged exposure to low concentrations or short term exposure to high concentrations may result in adverse health effects. irritation to the eyes, skin, and mucous membrane and delayed pulmonary edema, pneumonitis, bronchitis, and dental erosion. extremely corrosive acid. capable of causing severe chemical burns very rapidly.Urea is a nitrogenous compound containing a carbonyl group attached to two amine groups. It Causes irritation to skin, eyes and respiratory tract. Ingestion of urea (dust) can cause irritation to the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. May also cause headache, confusion and electrolyte depletion. Urea on reaction with water gives carbon dioxide and ammonia.Vinyl Acetate is slightly soluble in water. Vapors are heavier than air. Vapors irritate the eyes and respiratory system. May polymerize if heated or contaminated.It is very flammable and may be ignited by heat, sparks, or flames.Polymeric beads are blowing agent components that are solid, white or colored, rectangular-shaped beads. Slight hydrocarbon odor due to presence of pentane gas. Pentane vapor is extremely flammable and heavier than air and may travel long distances, ignite, and then flash back. When burning, this product will give off dense black smoke and slightly acidic gasses: carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, irritating aldehydes, ketones, hydrogen bromide, and styrene. Flash fire could result from ignition of concentrated vapor. Fragments of resin bead resulting from rough or careless handling could cause abrasive irritation or injury. Concentrations of vapor from pentane gas cause eye irritation, experienced as discomfort, with excess tear production and reflexive blinking accompanied by some slight temporary development of eye redness. Inhalation of concentrated vapors may also cause nose, and throat irritation dizziness, drowsiness, euphoria, loss of coordination, disorientation, headache, nausea, and vomiting. No serious environmental effect due to spillage or release of the unexpanded product. No bioconcentration is expected because of the relatively high molecular weight (MW >1000). Bio-toxicity is very low. Fish or other animals ingesting the unexpanded beads may, however, be harmed by abrasive irritation and/or blockage of the digestive tract. In the terrestrial environment, material is expected to remain in the soil. In the aquatic environment, material is expected to float. There is no evidence for significant evolvement or leaching of any components, therefore contamination of groundwater is unlikely. Blowing agent vapors may become dissolved in water or adsorbed by soil particles before releasing to the atmosphere.Polypropylene (PP) is usually considered safe for humans. UV light, heat, and pollutants can interact with Polypropylene (PP) molecules, mainly with the tertiary carbon producing free radicals which can react with oxygen producing changes in its properties.Pollution of the environment by inorganic chemicals is caused detrimental effects on the environment.Quicklime has a vigorous reaction with water and that causes severe irritation when inhaled or placed in contact with moist skin or eyes. Inhalation may cause coughing, sneezing, and labored breathing. It may then evolve into burns with perforation of the nasal septum, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.Long- term exposure to copper dust can irritate your nose, mouth, and eyes, and cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, and diarrhea. Intentionally high intakes of copper can cause liver and kidney damage and even death.The acidic and metal scrap-bearing waters from tailings can impact marine habitats.Environmentally Hazardous Substances (or Marine {Pollutants) are materials that can pose a risk to aquatic ecosystems such as marine mammals, fish, crustaceans and algae.Carcinogens, toxic or highly toxic agents, reproductive toxins, irritants, corrosives, sensitizers, hepatotoxins, nephrotoxins, neurotoxins, agents can be contained in chemical products. These products may cause immediate health effects, such as skin or eye irritation or burns, or poisoning. Hydrophilic chemical substances dissolve in water and hydrophobic chemical substances do not dissolve in water. They cause water pollution and poison aquatic life.Where are our scientists? Where are our authorities? Don’t foregt. All persons have the right to access information about hazardous substances that may affect them (ICCPR Article 19). The right to benefit from scientific progress and its application is an important part of article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and therefore, a fundamental aspect of cultural rights that the mandate has looked into. Where is our scientific Progress?

Chandana Sesath Jayakody

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