Obsolete pesticides in Moldova - NATO’s role in removing this serious threat

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Sampling of obsolete pesticides and chemicals

Obsolete pesticides (OPs) are highly toxic, highly dangerous substances that pose a direct threat to human health. In the Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia regions alone it is estimated that 250,000 tons of OPs are slowly being released into the soil, air and water.

The Republic of Moldova has an estimated 7 000 tonnes of obsolete pesticides and related chemicals in various sites within its borders. Among the pesticides that have been used in Moldova in the past are the organochlorinated pesticides listed in the Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) Convention of Stockholm; these are thought to pose the highest health and environmental risks due to their toxicity, persistence and bioaccumulation potential.

What is being done

As part of its Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) with NATO, Moldova is committed to work with NATO in the field of environmental security and in particular in the clean-up and destruction of hazardous chemicals on its territory. Collaboration with NATO was officially launched in November 2006.

Repacking of dangerous chemicals in Moldova

The first phase of the project, rendering the chemicals safe, was funded through a NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) Trust Fund project. The repackaging and safe storage of 3 245 tonnes of obsolete pesticides and hazardous chemicals was successfully completed in April 2008.

The benefits of this project are:

a) Overall reduction of the environmental, health, and socio-economic risks associated with obsolete pesticides dissipation in the environment:

  • Eliminating the health and environmental risks of further releases of obsolete pesticides from temporary unsafe storage sites;
  • Raising opportunities for organic agriculture thus increasing the income levels of small farmers and the rural poor by improving the export potential of agriculture products and increasing the land value in the proximity of emptied warehouses;

b) Assisting Moldova in meeting its obligations under international Conventions, Agreements and protocols.

The second phase of the project, which is sponsored by the NATO Science for Peace project, involved the establishment of an analytical laboratory with sophisticated equipment for analysis and characterization of pesticides. The laboratory, which is located at the Phytosanitation Product Test Centre in Chisinau, has been equipped with instrumentation for pesticides analysis based on gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, high pressure liquid chromatography and electrochemistry.  The personnel in the laboratory have been trained in the use of the instrumentation and in the general aspects of sampling and methods of analysis.

Working with other international organizations

This project is embedded in the Environment and Security (ENVSEC) Initiative for Eastern Europe, and to that effect NATO is working in partnership with other international organizations such as the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), to help Moldova achieve its objectives in the safe destruction of its chemical hazards.

A video on this project is available at www.nato.int/science/index.html

For more information visit the project website at www.chemicals.md

We didn’t believe that we would ever be free of this danger threatening the public health and the environment". Mr. Raisa Pavlov, Mayor of Ratus village, Moldova.
“A 5ml teaspoon of pesticide active ingredient would contaminate the water supply of approximately 15 000 people for one year to above the permissible EC limits for pesticides in drinking water. Just imagine what 250 000 tons can do!” Mark Davis, Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

End results

By end 2007, more than 3 000 samples from 29 sites had been analyzed and the composition of the pesticides was determined in 64% of the samples.

Quality control through duplicate samples, control samples and blank samples confirmed that the laboratory personnel respected the rules and maintenance of the procedures during the analysis period.

The NATO laboratory at work

NATO-sponsored analytical laboratory in Chisinau

The NATO-sponsored laboratory has also contributed to an economic upturn for the wine industry of Moldova.  In 2006 the export of Moldovan wine to Russia and Belarus dropped dramatically due in part to the quality of the wine.  Based on the results of the analysis carried out on samples by the NATO laboratory, a certificate assuring the quality of the wine was accorded to 15 wine companies.  Russia and Belarus began to import Moldovan wine again on 9 October 2007.

The Moldovan wine companies pay for to have the analysis carried out, and the proceeds from this activity will be used to obtain more equipment that is essential for future expansion of the laboratory’s activities.

The results from the laboratory are also being used by a French company (TREDI) who is working with the support of the Global Ecological Fund and the Worldbank to incinerate a further 1 150 tonnes of pesticides.  The company is now using the results from the NATO lab in order to determine temperature, flow rate of petrol, pressure, filters, etc. in order to make the destruction process more efficient.