Istanbul - Research showing that mother's milk and babies' excrement contain traces of heavy metals, leading to increased risk of cancer, has put experts against officials in the northwestern province of Kocaeli. While both district and city mayors file a complaint against the professor leading the study, the professor claims that the officials are trying to prevent scientific research. 'People will protect the values of Dilovası, as the awareness has been created," professor says.
© DHA photo
Professor Hamzaoğlu is accused of threatening to incite fear and panic among the population.

A complaint has been filed over a report published by an expert saying a high amount of heavy metals, including mercury and arsenic, were detected in mother's milk and babies' excrement in Turkey's northwestern Kocaeli province. The professor is accused of threatening to incite fear and panic among the population.

Mothers' milk and babies' excrement samples from residents in the Dilovası district were found to contain high amounts of mercury and arsenic, according to an eye-opening report released Jan. 8 by Onur Hamzaoğlu, head of the Public Health Department at Kocaeli University.

Both the Kocaeli mayor and the Dilovası mayor have filed a complaint against Hamzaoğlu and the court case files have been sent to the university's rector's office, daily Milliyet reported Friday.

If the university decides it does not have jurisdiction, then the prosecutor's office will launch an investigation against Hamzaoğlu, who may face two to four years in prison.

Hamzaoğlu told the Hürriyet Daily News it was hard to discuss the situation. "We are scientists who are working hard for the good of society, not for money or fame," he said, adding that even with the case brought against him, he has not lost hope.

Hamzaoğlu said the case was an obstacle put up by someone who wants to prevent the studies.

"We are waiting for the university's decision, " said the professor, according to daily Milliyet.

Referring to the discipline regulation of the High Education Board, or YÖK, Hamazaoğlu listed the possible outcomes that may occur according to the university's decision. "[The university] might say there is no need for any discipline punishment or investigation."

"On the other hand the university may say that a crime has occurred and detail the consequences that we may face or may send the files to the prosecutor's office as the content of the file is beyond the authority of both the university and YÖK."

No favor from court

"I do not believe the decision in the case will be in our favor, as the issue has already been heard by the public," Hamzaoğlu said. "People will protect the values of Dilovası, as the awareness has been created."

Recalling that the report has not been finished yet, Hamzaoğlu said the draft that was prepared through taking samples from both mother's milk and babies' excrement shows the risks. The complete report will be announced in June, he said.

Fight with official bodies

In a letter written to YÖK, the provincial anti-cancer directorate also claimed that Hamzaoğlu misinformed the public. The Kocaeli rector after receiving the letter launched another investigation into Hamzaoğlu.

Meanwhile, Hamzaoğlu filed a complaint against Kocaeli Mayor İbrahim Karaosmanoğlu, saying the mayor called him a "charlatan."

The cancer cluster

In 2005, Hamzaoğlu was enlisted by the Parliamentary Research Commission to analyze Dilovası, where several industrial facilities work with heavy metals and chemicals. In 2006, the commission released a report featuring data from Hamzaoğlu's study that said the rate of death from cancer in Dilovası is three times the world average.

According to research conducted in the area, the industrial development should be restricted. However, the number of facilities has continued to increase.

Industrialization cannot be prevented

Dilovası has been an industrial center for decades due to its geographical position near road, sea and rail transportation.

Industrialization started in the 1960s in Dilovası. There are now five organized industrial regions, one industrial site, 193 industrial organizations and more than 20,000 employees in the region. The population of the town, through which the E-5 and TEM highways pass, is about 45,000.

The town's industrial development has been uncontrolled, leading to heavy pollution and spiraling rates of serious diseases and cancer, according to local residents who previously spoke to the Hürriyet Daily News.