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Cycle 5 (2015 Deadline)

Hazardous effect of pollutants in the Deir Kanoun Dump on Syrian refugees and Lebanese people

PI: Jamila Borjac (, Beirut Arab University
U.S. Partner: Diane Blake, Tulane University
Dates: December 2016 - November 2018

Project Overview:

The aims of this project are to identify chemical and microbiological pollutants present in Deir Kanoun Ras el Ein dump that are leaking into surrounding soil and water and then to assess their hazardous effect on the Syrian and Lebanese people living in that area. Cancer and respiratory, skin, and other diseases are occurring at an increasing rate in that area, which cover more than ten villages. The research team will evaluate the number of Syrians refugees and Lebanese inhabitants living near the dump who develop diseases. Water from this dump leaks into a canal that irrigates a large agricultural area. Identification of these pollutants, both chemical and microbiological, should contribute to finding a solution to protect the people living in the area. Using various advanced analytical chemistry techniques, the researchers will identify the toxic metals and cancer-inducing chemicals deposited into the dump by factories. Microbiological techniques will be used to identify the types of microorganisms growing in the dump. Clinical and biochemical techniques will be used to analyze the extent of health damage suffered by people living near the dump.

During this two-year project, the research will document environmental and health impacts of the dump and then will aim to find a solution in order to eliminate the health-damaging effects on local residents. This project will link university students, many of them female, to social problems, especially in rural regions. Working as part of the study team, the students will engage with rural inhabitants and encourage active participation in decisions related to the safety of their municipalities. Seminars and workshops targeting school students and mothers will be organized to provide information on safety precautions. By identifying the main pollutants, the research team will help the waste companies involved to eliminate these wastes and take proper handling actions. This project may serve as well as an intriguing example for other chemists and biochemists interested in finding solutions to toxin elimination problems.

5-56 - Questionnaires Q120175-56 Bins Q12017
Participants complete questionnaires for the PEER project in one of the Syrian camp study sites. (Photo courtesy of PI Dr. Borjac)Recycling bins distributed to the public high, middle, and elementary schools in Klayleh to encourage students to recycle. (Photo courtesy of PI Dr. Borjac)

Summary of Recent Activities

During the last quarter of 2017, Dr. Borjac and her team continued to collect soil and water samples for analysis in order to identify bacteria present and determine their antibiotic resistance. Water samples were also analyzed for the presence of heavy metals, pesticides, and polyaromatic hydrocarbons. The highlight of the quarter was a conference they organized on October 25, 2017, entitled “Hand in Hand Towards a Better Environment.” Six presentations were made by invited speakers, including the previous Kaemakam of Tyre (Mr. Kabalan), head of the municipality (Mr. Abed Al Karim Hassan), several school principals, representatives of the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Education, United Nations staff, NGO personnel, a human rights activist, and a scientist (Dr. Safaa Baydoun) and students from Beirut Arab University. Dr. Baydoun spoke on a similar project she had conducted on the Litani River in the Bekaa region.

In the first half of 2018, the PI and her group will carry out their second round of educational presentations in the three villages that are part of their study. They will also work in their own laboratories to try to identify certain organic compounds found in their water and soil samples, as the majority of outside labs they contacted were not able to identify the chemicals being sought. Some additional equipment and supplies will also be purchased.

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