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Use of heptyl is a relic of the past: ecologists

04 июля 2013, 15:55

Kazakhstan ecologists have given Tengrinews.kz their opinions on the harm caused by the crash of Russian rocket Proton-M at Baikonur. Earlier the media reported that up to 500 tons of the rocket fuel heptyl could have spilled on the ground during the rocket crash.

“Proton booster uses heptyl. This is a good rocket fuel, but a very hazardous one for the environment,” prominent Kazakhstan ecologist Mels Yeleussizov said. “One gram of heptyl pollutes one cubic kilometer of air. Parts of Protons fall all the time, most frequently in Kazakhstan. This problem has to be discussed; it is serious.”
Mels Yerleusizov

Mels Yeleussizov. ©Yaroslav Radlovskiy

Ecologist and deputy director on scientific-applied works of EcoService, the corresponding member of the Russian International Science Academy of Ecology and Human and Natural Safety Vladislav Bensman believes that use of heptyl as rocket fuel is a relic of the past.

“We have made a research upon a request of the Ministry of Environmental Protection on military test sites, including space rocket drop zones. We also studied their effect on the environment and the population, but that we studied 10-15 years after the sites were discharged from use, so we did not find any obvious effects on the health. However heptyl exposure may last for 20-30 years. We took samples and made tests,” Bensman said. According to the expert, low cost of heptyl may be one of the reasons why it is still used in the rocket-launchers.

Meanwhile, deputy Director for Science of Eco-Service company German Fyodorov sees a big threat for the local citizens. “I think that the amount of 500 tons is ginormous. 6 tons is already an extremely high amount. We need to check the amount of fuel spilled and the proximity of the impact zone to inhabited locations. Heptyl dissolves pretty quickly and, dissolving, it converts into an even more hazardous substance,” the speaker said adding that it was very important to understand everything, but not panic.

Heptyl has a strong toxic and mutagenic effect. It irritates the eye mucosa, affects respiratory passages, lungs and central nervous system and causes gastrointestinal upsets (nausea, vomiting). In big concentrations it can cause fainting.

As for Proton-M, it has been launched 386 times since 1967. 46 of the launches failed during operation of the first three stages or transfer orbit stage.

Russia’s Proton-M carrier rocket [equipped with a DM-3 booster] carrying three Glonass-M navigation satellites crashed right after the lift-off at Kazakhstan-based Baikonur cosmodrome on July 2.

By Linda Buran

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