Jul 27 2008

Pollution from Smelters Damages Teeth in Sheep

Iceland Review – Sigurdur Sigurdarson, a veterinarian at Keldur in south Iceland, claims that fluorine pollution from aluminum smelter is causing teeth-damages in livestock and encourages sheep farmers who live near smelters to pay close attention to the symptoms.

“[Fluorine] accumulates in the bones of the animals and can at first be detected as brown spots or sores in the teeth. If the fluorine pollution is extensive, knots can form in the bones and make the animals limp,” Sigurdarson told 24 Stundir. “It is therefore important that farmers are aware of this and inspect the mouths of their animals regularly.”

Fluorine pollution from smelters is the most extensive when new aluminum pots begin operating. Pollution therefore causes the most damage when a new smelter is launching operations or after it has been enlarged. The fluorine is carried with the air to the soil and from there to herbivores.

The enlargement of the Nordurál – Century Aluminum smelter in Hvalfjördur 2006 to 2007 caused an increase in fluorine emissions from the factory.

Sigurbjörn Hjaltason, head of the district council of Kjósarhreppur, said he is very dissatisfied with the enlargement. He claims that the fluorine emissions from the smelter are higher than what is permitted and higher than what the website of Century Aluminum states.

“With good will you could say that it is within limits but it is still not acceptable,” Hjaltason said. “The factory is located here within a sensitive biosphere.”

On behalf of Keldur, samples are taken regularly from farms close to the Century Aluminum smelter in Hvalfjördur and the amount of fluorine is measured. According to Sigurdarson, an increase in fluorine can easily be detected.

“Fluorine in the bones of animals has been increasing, especially for the past year. It has not reached such a dangerous level yet that animals are becoming sick, but if this continues, teeth damages in sheep will become apparent,” Sigurdarson said.