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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

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

From March to June 2017, the research team performed three trips to collect blood from participants living in the village in our study. A presentation was given to students in the village on the effect of pollution on health similar to the one given in the previous school. Recycling bins were offered to the school and hand hygienic gels were distributed to students. Results of the blood type were given to participants as in the previous study site collections. CBC, ALT and AST analysis were performed and the results were given to all 160 participants in the village. CEA and AFP analysis were also finalized for all participants.

The team also collected water samples to test the quality of water in the villages. DNA was extracted from bacteria isolated from these water samples which resulted in 16S rRNA being amplified by PCR. PCR products were purified and are ready to be sent for sequencing. Additionally, analysis of the general physical and chemical parameters (pH, Temperature, hardness, phosphate, nitrate, sulfate, chloride, magnesium, calcium, sodium) of collected water was performed. Heavy metals analysis in these samples was also initiated. Microbiological testing for the potable water from different homes in Deir Kanoun municipality, and spring water that the Syrian refugees drink from was performed. Results will be shared with appropriate stakeholders.

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