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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 - June 2019

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

The team’s first manuscript was accepted for publication in Pollution Research in the second quarter of 2018 and will be published in December 2018. The first manuscript submitted covers the microbiological analysis of the leachates and the water that flows in the canal pertaining to the PEER project. The analysis found that there is no database that includes the types of bacteria identified in water samples in Lebanon. The team's manuscript is the first article that shows the diversity of bacteria isolated in Lebanon while most articles concentrate on the presence of E.coli and fecal coliforms and their resistance to some antibiotics. The types of bacteria identified are ones that can come from food sources, waste, and the environment. Some of the identified bacteria are pathogenic and pose significant public health concerns. The team also reported that the electrical conductivity and total dissolved solids of water samples from both leachates were higher than WHO acceptable ranges. Finally, samples collected from the farthest site from the dump were higher in fecal coliforms and E.coli indicating mostly anthropogenic activities. This site shelters the highest number of Syrian Refugees compared to the other two villages and chaotic waste dumping along the sides of the canal could be the main reason.

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