Fluoride Action Network

Tajik Aluminum – Environmental Disaster in Central Asia

Source: Current Digest of the Post-Soviet Press | August 2nd, 2000 | by Yury Yegorov
Location: Russia
Industry type: Aluminum Industry

Condensed text:

The whole world knows about the tragedy of the Aral Sea, the unhealing wound of Uzbekistan. . . .

This disaster has now been joined by a new one, this time in the southern part of the republic. Years ago the Tajik Aluminum Plant (TAZ) was built near Tajikistan’s border with Uzbekistan. . . . The wind pattern in those parts is such that toxic emissions from TAZ are carried by air streams to three neighboring districts [of Uzbekistan]: Sariasiisky, Uzun and Denau, with a population of over half a million.

The new official emblem of Surkhan-Darya Province, of which these districts are a part, could well be a gap-toothed cow. Cows with missing teeth are a common sight in the areas exposed to the effects of the Tajik Aluminum Plant, which discharges hundreds of thousands of [metric] tons of hydrogen fluoride, sulfur dioxide, nitric oxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere. Agriculture is suffering enormous damage. Silkworm raising is almost at a standstill. Vineyards, the famous Dashnabad pomegranate orchards and stone fruit crops have perished, and cattle have been affected. The milk and meat of these diseased animals are unfit for consumption. But perhaps worst of all, the operation of TAZ is taking a toll on public health. The affected regions have seen severalfold increases in the incidence of metabolic disorders, diseases of the endocrine system, and disorders of blood and hematopoietic organs, the pulmonary organs and the musculoskeletal system. Birth defects and tumors are on the rise. . . .

The chief medical officer of the Uzun District Public Health and Epidemiological Service, Karshi Sulanov, commented on the situation.

* * *

Sulanov. — . . . The frightening thing is that Tajikistan, while fully aware of the aluminum plant’s impact on the environment and public health, isn’t taking any steps whatsoever to prevent these negative effects. . . .

We’re on very good terms with the Tajik public health and epidemiological service. Our neighbors say that the aluminum plant has even stopped replacing filters of late. It doesn’t have enough money. . . .

The health of the general public isn’t the only thing to which the Tajik government has been indifferent. Studies conducted among TAZ workers by the Tajik Research Institute of Epidemiology and Hygiene have shown that environmental conditions at the plant itself are taking a toll on the health of the workers and other personnel. . . .

Studies by the Tajik State Medical Institute’s department of obstetrics and gynecology indicate extremely poor health among female TAZ workers. Researchers examined a large group of women and found that 82% had from one to five forms of gynecological disease. . . .

Recent reports say that the plant is experiencing shortages of raw materials and is therefore operating at only 38% of capacity. And I suppose you could say that for us, that’s great news. But it would be better yet if they would shut the place down entirely. There’s not much chance of that, though, because the plant accounts for as much as 25% of the country’s budget revenues. Meanwhile, the killer aluminum plant is still operating. Maybe not at full capacity, but operating nonetheless. And of course, it ought to compensate for the harm it has inflicted. Up through the end of 1991, Tajikistan was doing certain things to help us: Walk-in clinics and a school were built, and payments of monetary compensation were made. But all that came to an end in 1992. . . .

Back on Nov. 17, 1994, the governments of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Republic of Tajikistan signed an Agreement on Cooperation in Improving the Environmental Situation in the Zone Affected by the Tajik Aluminum Plant. …. For the purpose of implementing the agreement, the Uzbek and Tajik national environmental protection agencies drafted a program of scientific and technical measures to improve environmental conditions at the plant in 1996-2000. But nothing stipulated in the program has ever been done. . . .


BBC Summary of World Broadcasts
July 28, 1995

Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to join efforts in fighting pollution

SOURCE: Interfax News Agency, Moscow

Tajik and Uzbek environmentalists have decided to step up cooperation to protect Uzbekistan’s eastern regions from contamination by a Tajik aluminium plant, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported from Tashkent .

The Uzbek State Committee for Nature Protection told Interfax that the Tadaz smelter in Tursunzade, 10 km from the Uzbek border, had produced pollutants which “were affecting crops and the local population” . It said that environmentalists, under a three-year agreement signed by the two governments at the end of last year, would “take soil samples and measure atmospheric pollution on a regular basis and equip eight Tadaz-funded scientific test sites to measure the environmental effect of pollutants” . Interfax added that the location of the sites would be split evenly between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, with the cost having yet to be finalized.

In an attempt to fight pollution, Tadaz, one of the biggest smelters in the former USSR, has bought 4.5m dollars’ worth of gas purifying equipment from the Norwegian company ABB Flakt, the agency said.


Russian Press Digest
November 26, 1991

Disaster Area: Tajik aluminum factory polluting part of Uzbekistan.

by Ye Velichanskaya

The Sukhan-Darya Regional Soviet has declared Uzbekistan’s Sarnasiysk, Uzun, Denau and Altynsai Districts “environmental disaster areas.” The districts have long been affected by pollution from the Tursun-Zade Aluminum Factory in Tajikistan. The factory’s wastes include highly toxic substances such as hydrogen fluoride, sulfuric anhydrate and nitrogen dioxide.

In the affected areas, pomegranate plantations, gardens, vineyards and cattle are being poisoned. The pollution also undermines human health and is particularly dangerous to children.

The two republics’ special commissions and parliamentary groups have tried to negotiate a drop in production with the factory’s management (in order to cut down on pollution). The same suggestion has been made to the USSR Ministry for the Production of Non-Ferrous Metals. However, no results have been achieved.

The Sukhan-Darya Soviet has now called on the Supreme Soviets and governments of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to protect the areas affected by the aluminum factory’s waste. The suggestion is that the factory be retooled for the manufacture of consumer goods.




Research analysis on the impact of emissions on human health was conducted in Tajikistan. It was noted that in the surroundings of Tajik aluminum plant there is air pollution, water degradation, soil contamination, food destruction and general environmental degradation. All these factors are negatively reflected on the health of local population. Thus, main damage comes from fluorine and oxidizing components. Fluorozis, nervous, respiratory, digestion and cancer diseases are observed here. The loss of productivity of silk cocoons is observed on the distance up to 50 km from the pollution source and makes 30%. But recently, the level of negative influence has been reduced by 60% from the volume of 1988 as a result of production decreasing and emission reduction by 50-60%.



The Aluminum industry, with one of the largest smelters (514,000 tons per year) in the world, consuming nearly 40% of countries electricity and at full capacity Tajikistan produced 10-15% of total aluminum in the FSU, situated on the bank of the river, was among major environmental concerns. The plant annually emitted 193 tons of fluorides, 1,306 tons of sulfur dioxide, and 28,900 tons of carbon monoxide. The hydrogen fluoride emissions have been the source of significant adverse health effects, both to the residents of Tursunzade in Tajikistan and the bordering communities in Uzbekistan. Livestock were losing their teeth and dying, and the teeth of local children have been found to be discolored.


Stomatologiia (Mosk) 1993 Jul-Sep;72(3):61-4

[The status of the teeth and periodontal tissues of children living in an area polluted by the wastes from an aluminum plant] [Article in Russian]

Zhumatov UZh.

The author compares dental, periodontal, and bone system status of children living in two regions characterized by different degrees and patterns of environmental pollution. Children living in regions polluted by aluminum plant waste (sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, dust, hydrogen fluoride) developed specific abnormalities because of body poisoning with fluorides, namely, dental fluorosis, osteoporosis and osteosclerosis of the bones; periodontal diseases in these children were more incident than in controls. These findings prompted the development of a complex of sanitary, technologic, health, therapeutic and prophylactic measures aimed at reduction of fluorine levels in the environment to the normal level and of dental diseases incidence among children living near the Tajik aluminum plant.

PMID: 8236309 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]