Do you know that hundreds of tons of chemicals, which may cause cancer upon contact, are kept in a storage site in Kocaeli? Do you further know that such chemicals can be carried by water and air; cause cancer and other serious medical problems upon contact or inhaling; if not intervened, may cause grave dangers to people in our country and in the world, and even an ecological crisis; simple inquiries show that they are not produced or used anywhere in the world; and can spread over so large areas that they may end up resurfacing at the poles? This type of chemicals is called Persistent Organic Pollutants, or POPs.
The rapid industrialization in Turkey after the 1950s, particularly the development of iron-steel, cement and chemical industries around Kocaeli was accompanied by an intensive production of POPs. Over a relatively long period of time, the world came to understand that these chemicals were highly harmful. It was revealed that they were not only carcinogen but also adversely impacting reproduction, and transferred to later generations through placenta and mother’s milk.
Further compounding the problem was that chemicals by nature survived long years before decomposition. The Stockholm Convention, hailed as an international treaty, was adopted in 2001, and ratified by Turkey. Then, the world set out to eradicate these man-made chemicals off the earth.
Now, back to the question of why we have tons of POPs in Kocaeli. HCH (Hexa-Chlorocyclo-Hexane) derivatives, which were most harmful of POPs and used as pesticides, were intensively used in the chemicals industry in Turkey until the prohibition in the 1980s. Following the prohibition however, a part of the stocks remained in a closed storage for years due to a prolonged process of bankruptcy and take-overs of the plant. Now the existence of such waste in Kocaeli, constituting one of the largest single-location POP stocks in the world, poses a globally significant problem.