Hotspots and Incidents » Disasters, catastrophes

Scary Epidemics Still Remain Unsolved


Is the ecological situation beyond control now?
Recently, strange epidemics have been breaking out on the Russian Federation territory. Special commissions attract professional experts to find out the X factor that damages people's health and lives. But in most cases investigations of this kind are not effective.

Here is the chronicle of 1990, the year when epidemics of this kind occurred in Russia.

February. Workers from the station of Predkombinat in the city of Kemerovo were affected with a strange disease characterized with the following symptoms: severe headache, short breath and irritation of mucous membranes. Seven workers were taken to hospital in a critical condition and were set a diagnosis "poisoning with irritant gas". Doctors failed to identify what gas exactly that was. It was highly likely emission from the enterprises Azot or Khimprom situated close to the station. But none of the enterprises claimed the responsibility for the emission.

March. Nails and hair of children suffered as a result of strange outbreak of alopecia were sent for an analysis to Canada. The response from Canada dissolved all hopes that foreign experts will find out the reason of the strange epidemic. Canadian doctors reached a conclusion that was chemical poisoning. But the source and the agent of poisoning were not found.

April. Four mines stopped working because miners were poisoned with some unknown agent. The agent highly likely penetrated into the drifts from the surface, from the dump of a chemical plant where solid and liquid wastes had been accumulating within 30 years. But still, the exact reason of the epidemic wasn't named.

May. Graduates from the school #108 in the city of Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg) who came to help farmers in the collective farm Khramtsovsky gather harvest suddenly felt numbness of feet. Doctors set a diagnosis of poisoning of the peripheral nervous system. A year before the incident, students and workers from several of Sverdlovsk enterprises who had come to the collective farm to help farmers were also taken to hospital with the same diagnosis. Some people became handicapped, but the cause of the poisoning wasn't named.

June. A huge number of dead starfishes were cast ashore the White Sea. Scientists also studied two dead seals which were also cast ashore. It turned out that the animals died of paralysis of the essential centers in their organisms. But the cause of the paralysis still remains unknown.

The sad list of epidemics occurred in 1990 and at other periods is rather long. But in all of the instances the causes of the tragedies were not discovered.

The common sense suggests just two variants of the epidemics: either Russian scientists are helpless to adequately watch the environmental situation on the territory of the country or the people are just cheated about the actual reasons of the epidemics.

The page 201st of the Guinness Book of World Records published by the Progress publishing house (Russia) contains a table named "Accidents, disasters and catastrophes in the Russian Empire and the USSR". Among other entries there is one concerning the period of April - May 1979. The entry mentions some chemical poisoning (industrial one) at an enterprise producing chemical weapons in the city of Novosibirk. The number of victims of the tragedy is said to be 300 people.

This is quite an enormous tragedy that claimed the lives of 300 people. That is why we asked journalist from Novosibirsk Oleg Khripunov to investigate the details of the mass poisoning.

However, when Oleg called back in a couple of days he was bewildered. As it turned out, together with other journalists Oleg made inquiries at several official institutions and even talked to workers of the local chemical enterprises. That was strange but nobody even heard of the catastrophe at all.

Under these conditions any reasonable man would suggest that the Guinness Book of Records is mistaken. Indeed, it was incredible that the death of 300 people could happen unnoticed. This was impossible in any other country but not in the Soviet Union.

Nowadays, when majority of archives are available it has become quite obvious that powers that be managed to conceal even bigger numbers of victims. At the same time, this is quite understandable why workers of the Novosibirsk chemical industry are reluctant to speak about the instances of tragic poisoning. 

Alexander Petrov from the city of Arkhangelsk tells the following. A special commission was set up after thousands of dead starfishes were cast ashore; the commission consisted of prominent scientists, representatives of government organs and public organizations. A great number of versions of the accident were suggested then.

The regional ecology committee received letters telling about chemical shells buried at the bottom of the sea long ago. Probably the stuffing of the shells was the reason of the catastrophe. Some people supposed that starfishes died because of fuel that leaked into the sea after missile launching from submarines. Others attempted to persuade the community that mass deaths of starfishes were quite natural. Much money was spent on researches but still no results were obtained.

Deputy Chairman of the Arkhangelsk Committee for Conservation of Natural Resources Medvedev states that the special commission demonstrated the weakness of the national science in situations of that kind.

It is not ruled out either that those were particularly high-ranking officials who wanted to conceal the actual reason why the sea animals so tragically died.

Lately, scientists register an increasing number of genetic defects and cancer among citizens of the Baltic countries. One of the official versions explaining the phenomenon is that diseases are the consequences of a radioactive cloud that reached the area after the Chernobyl tragedy that shocked the world in 1986. But it is not ruled out the actual reason of the tragedy was quite different.

According to the modest estimates, there are over 250 thousand tons of high-toxic poisonous substances at the bottom of the Baltic Sea; majority of them are mustard gas and lewisite.

Right after WWII, republics of the USSR and members of the anti-Hitler coalition decided to submerge a great part of German chemical weapons. Experts promised that containers with war gases would keep safe in the water of the Baltic Sea, that is almost sweet, for a very long period; they said that even if the containers leak poisonous agents would be destroyed. The chemical weapons were buried over 50 years ago. This is quite natural that metal barrels and containers have corroded with the sea water and the aggressive contents do leak. In fact, from time to time scientists register sudden mustard gas concentrations close to the sector where the chemical weapons were buried.

Mustard gas comes from Germany; it was first used as poisonous agent during WWI. Another name for the gas is yperite: it was named after the Belgian city of Ypres where French soldiers had fallen victims to the gas for the first time. The gas is extremely toxic and can penetrate even through rubber clothes; that is why it is called the King of Gases. In 1943, when Germany was getting ready for a large-scale war against the Soviet Union it accumulated 125 thousand tons of mustard gas, and by the end of the year the amount of the deadly poison made up about 300 thousand tons of yperite. Lewisite appeared as a result of experiments in 1917; this gas is even more dangerous than mustard gas but less widespread.

Mustard gas and lewisite are almost insoluble in water; as far as they are heavier than water, after leaking from the containers the make up huge poisonous puddles at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. On the other hand, mustard gas and lewisite wonderfully dissolve in oil. This is an open secret that the Baltic Sea is polluted with oil that is why oil spots absorb the poisonous gases and spread them about.

Today it is perfectly clear that there is no hope that in the course of time mustard gas may decompose. What is more, the gas remains still toxic under water and may stay there for many years. To decompose this gas we need to boil the sea with caustic alkali and detergents.

The situation is that problematic with lewisite as well. Even though the gas can be decomposed with water, it further turns into toxic substance that can be spread about in the form of suspension insoluble in water. Besides, lewisite contains poisonous arsenic which can be accumulated in the plankton and later penetrates into fish organisms.

Mustard gas and lewisite are particularly dangerous as even slightest concentrations of the gases disturb the work of genes and cause diseases similar to radiation sickness. Unfortunately, this fact became known after the poisonous containers were buried at the sea bottom.

Doctors emphasize that very often dermatoses occur after people swim in the Baltic Sea, in the water area of the Gulf of Finland. The symptoms of such diseases remind of the affection with small doses of blistering gases.

However, it hasn't been yet proved that the diseases are directly connected with the chemical weapons buried at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Experts are still helpless to explain the diseases and deaths of people. This means that t he ecological situation is now beyond control.

Thus, if now there is some X factor that claims lives of hundreds of people, but it is not ruled out that some day more Y or Z factors may appear that will be able to destroy the life on the planet.

If the answers to the mysterious tragedies are kept in secret safes, then it’s good. It means there is still hope that some day the mystery will be uncovered and will never repeat again.


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