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Partnership for Achieving Chemical Safety in Armenia

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Partnership for Achieving

Chemical Safety in Armenia”

Report back from the Conference
Hosted by Armenian Women for Health and Healthy Environment (AWHHE)

29-30 October 2007,


Table of Contents

Abstract 1

The objectives of the conference: 2

Outcomes 2

The impact expected 12


Annexes 13

ANNEX 2 15

ANNEX 3 18

ANNEX 4 21

ANNEX 5 22

ANNEX 6. 23

Ensuring Chemical Safety and Human Health
Partnership for Achieving Chemical Safety in Armenia”

Yerevan, Republic of Armenia
29-30 October 2007
There has been growing awareness and concern about the environmental impacts of several chemicals on human health. It is well known that some chemicals like herbicides had been used as biological weapon in Vietnam. The war in Vietnam finished several decades ago, but the chemical “Agent orange” which was sprayed by Americans over jungles till now affects Vietnamese through the food. Agent orange”, that contains highly toxic matter – dioxin, makes about 55% of herbicides used. Such chemicals cause series of diseases, including some kinds of cancer, diabetes, congenital malformation etc.

Hazardouz pesticides also could represent a big danger for environment and health. One of the big and dangerous units in Armenia is the burial site of the obsolete pesticides where still in 1982 more than 500 tones of toxic chemicals of different groups were buried. The burial site is located in a zone of active landslides that caused the destruction of the integrity of the burial site. The concentration of the chlorine organic pesticides in the soil exceeds the permissible norms by 100-1000 times. The situation like that is fraught with danger to contaminate not only the environment, surrounding units and possibly the trans-boundary rivers, but also to affect the health of the population of the adjacent villages. Consequences from possible emergency situation related to obsolete pesticide burial destruction and impact on human health could be equivalent to chemical weapon exposure.

The transition process has had major impacts on both the economic and health status of people in transition countries with the similar problems related to chemical safety and with many environmental challenges. Public awareness of threats to environment to respond to urgent environmental problems is strongly needed.

This is the first meeting in Armenia that has brought together notable government agency representatives, experts from abroad and Armenian NGOs to consider “Partnership for Achieving Chemical Safety in Armenia “

For the first time, those invited had the opportunity to connect with each other in person to learn more about Chemical Safety and Human Health and to consider important next steps.

The conference called for the consideration of environmental health, based on sound science, in the negotiation and implantation of future, bilateral, regional and global agreements, such as persistent organic pollutants, long range trans-boundary air pollution, and trade in particularly dangerous pesticides, chemicals and hazardous wastes, Chemical Weapons Convention.

The conference facilitated to scope the problems and needs to be undertaken to identify related human health and environmental issues of concern in order to address gaps in national policies.

The objectives of the conference:

  • Identify relevant stakeholders at all levels, with the aim to encourage broad and meaningful participation in conceiving responses to chemical management and risk assessment challenges

  • Raise awareness among stakeholders about environmental agreements and relevant international instruments regarding toxic chemicals, associated with health risks and environmental safety in order to address gaps in national policies

  • Facilitate partnerships and cooperation among national agencies and NGOs that are responsible for, or concerned with chemical safety

  • Exchange of scientific information regarding to chemicals safety and risk assessment

1. This is the first meeting in Armenia that has brought together notable government agency representatives, experts from abroad and regional and national NGOs to consider “Partnership for Achieving Chemical Safety in Armenia “.

2. The participants gained information from presentations and opened discussions during the conference on health risks and environmental pollution associated with toxic chemicals as well as on existing international agreements and instruments regarding toxic chemicals, associated with health risks and environmental safety

3. Relevant stakeholders were identified such as: Ministry of Nature Protection RA, Ministry of Defense RA, Ministry of Foreign Affairs RA, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture, and regional and national NGOs, UNDP , UNEP, UNIDO, to encourage broader and meaningful participation in conceiving responses to chemical management and risk assessment challenges;

The challenge to develop Partnership for Achieving Chemical Safety in Armenia has been addressed. Cooperation and partnership among governmental authorities and NGOs on chemical safety were facilitated e.g. representative of Ministry of Defense RA expressed its readiness to cooperate with NGOs around the problem of chemical safety as well as Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
4. The listserv was created in order to keep in touch with participants, to send them any updates and news about health and environment that may be appropriate for Armenia. All conference related materials (press releases, speakers presentations, recommendations and photos) was put on the AWHHE website ( ) in order to keep participants informed.

5. Related recommendations prepared and disseminated through participants of the conference see annex 2

6. The conference featured some of the latest scientific evidence on the environment’s impact on human health, and provided a discussion forum on policy solutions needed to make progress in reducing the negative health effects of environmental pollution

7. A statement signed by majority of those in attendance that calls for strengthening of the role of stakeholders in environmental health issues including local communities, local self-government institutions, academia, and public interest NGOs for achieving Chemical Safety in Armenia “ as well as for carrying out commitments related to ensuring public participation in decision making processes and an access to information about hazardous chemicals closely connected with public health and social security.

8. Consideration of major environmental health problems and their solutions in Armenia, including the decontamination of a major site burial ground of POPs chemicals, which is part of the commitment made by the Armenian Government through its participation in the Stockholm Convention. Stockholm Convention was ratified by Armenian Government in 2004.

T h e S t o c k h o l m C o n v e n t i o n is an i n t e r n a t i o n al, l e g a l l y b i n d i n g

r e g u l a t i o n f o r t h e g l o b a l e l i m i n a t i o n o f e x t r e m e l y d a n g e r o u s p o l l u t a n t s. In many developing countries or countries with economies in transition, however, POPs are still produced or used, either as pesticides in agriculture, as wood preservatives, as anti-malaria treatment or in industry. The large problem targeted by the Convention is the management of obsolete stockpiles and wastes containing POPs. More than 100.000 tons of old pollutants, the use of

which is now illegal, are often stored under uncontrolled and inadequate conditions.

POPs Convention aimed on aware of the health concerns, especially in developing countries, resulting from local exposure to persistent organic pollutants.

The POPs Convention entered in to force for all 12 chemicals that have been included in Convention.

The implementation of the Convention can stop the production and the use of POPs and

bring on the destruction of obsolete stockpiles. The more important: More chemicals can be added to the list in the future.

9. Many of participants expressed the willingness to organize a series of meetings and activities that will bring Government, experts and NGOs together and each meeting features a site visit to a contaminated site, offering solutions developed by AWHHE.   There is a need of ongoing publicity of the information around the hot spot to keep the pressure on.

The existing working group should set activities that will monitor the follow up of some issues such as the “mélange” project.  For this purpose the further funding is strongly needed and assistance of international organizations is highly appreciated.

The conference was designed in the way that each panel presented different information that adds up to a whole and each panel dovetailed with the previous panel and the subsequent panel.
The first panel was dedicated to:

Challenges to Safe Chemicals Management in Armenia and Environmental Risk Exposure“

It was mentioned by all speakers that the one of the top priorities of the Armenian Government in the field of chemical safety is building the human health protection effective system and ensuring environmental safety. The system should be efficient enough so as to be able not only to secure appropriate coordination among the governmental agencies and local authorities, but also to ensure highly organized and speedy coordination with international organizations such as OPCW, OSCE and others. Moreover, taking into consideration the emerging threat of international terrorism with the possible use of chemical weapons of mass destruction, against which no democratic country could feel secured enough, the organization of such conference aimed at enhancing the level of civil and environmental protection is of a great concern and importance.

Mr. Arshak Manoukyan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, RA, in his presentation entitled “Convention on prohibition of development, production, accumulation and use of chemical weapons and their disposal” first touched upon the history of use of chemical weapons in antique world, during the I and II World Wars, about preliminary efforts of arms control, Geneva Protocol and chemical terrorism. The Chemical Weapons Convention aims to exclude totally the possibilities of use of chemical weapons, in this way supplementing the commitments accepted by Geneva Protocol, as well to use the achievements of chemistry absolutely for peaceful purposes and for human welfare.

Mr. Manoukyan introduced in details the provisions of national legislation of Convention and the commitments of each Convention member state. The speaker emphasized that Armenia has its contribution into the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention that was ratified on January 27, 1995. He also gave the definition of chemical weapon and introduced the purposes the chemicals and chemical weapons can be used for in general. Mr. Manoukyan in his speech mentioned about the trade obligations and measures that each member state of Convention should undertake so that the toxic chemicals should be developed, produced, acquired, stored, transported and used within the boundaries of its own territory or in another site, under its competence or control for the purposes that are not prohibited by the Convention. The speaker told also about the risk factor of chemical weapons for the whole population of the world.

The presentation of Mr. C. Hofstra, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) entitled “OSCE involvement in the eradication of stocks of rocket fuel” attracted a great attention of the audience. It was dedicated to eradication of rocket fuel Melange. After the former USSR disintegration, 872 tons of “Melange” – a rocket fuel component – was left on a military base in the village of Kaltakhchi. “Melange” is a mixture of a number of acids that are highly toxic, aggressive, and combustible. The “Melange” storage process required special safety actions and permanent material expenses, and contained elements of real risk to the populace and the environment. For this reason, the RA Ministry of Defense adopted a resolution on liquidation of hazardous fuel, and under support of the OSCE Office in Yerevan a project was performed in period 2006 to 2007. The results of the project were estimated positively.

Mr. S. Hovhannisyan / Ministry of Defense RA/ in his presentation entitled “Weapons of Mass Destruction and the protection from them” first of all introduced the history of origin of the of Mass Destruction weapons, their types (nuclear, chemical, biological/bacteriological, geophysical, lazar, ethnic, etc.) and the impact of use of these weapons. The speaker mentioned all those units that present chemical threat to the population (factories of chemical production, oil processing plants, units of textile, metallurgic, food industries, transportation means, etc.). Mr. Hovhannisyn presented all the international protocols and conventions related to weapons of mass destruction. He noted all possible emergencies on the territory of Armenia and as an example brought the case of explosion in the plant “Nairit”. At the end of his presentation the speaker emphasized the necessity of having a national plan for liquidation of consequences, preparedness of army and forces in case of emergencies.

Mrs. G. Ghazinyan /Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), RA/, presented the role and policy of OSCE office in Armenia “OSCE environmental policy and it's implementation in the Caucasus”. She underlined the role of Public Environmental Centres in Armenia and its activities around the Public participation in decision making process, access to Justice and environmental information.

Dr. S. Hovhannisyan, Ministry of Health, RA,

In his presentation entitled “The Medical Hygienic Aspects of Chemical Security and the Problems of Public Health” Mr. S. Hovhannisyan spoke first of all about the right of work of each citizen, as well the right for the working conditions that meet the requirements of security and hygiene according to the Article 32 of the Sanitary Legislation. He presented the RA Law “On Ensuring Sanitary-Epidemic Security of the Population” and mentioned that the RA legislation consists of the given Law and the relevant adopted acts of RA Legislation. He introduced in details the Articles concerning the general requirements to the ensuring of sanitary-epidemic security in the field of application of chemical substances and biological means, as well the demands against the production, transportation, storage and use of such new produce that can affect negatively the human health. The speaker touched upon also the RA Code of Labor and the RA Laws “On plants protection”, “The order of state registration of pesticides by the interdepartmental commission”. Mr. Hovhannisyan spoke about the Resolutions adopted by the Armenian Government concerning the confirmation of the legislation and structure of the RA Sanitary-Epidemic Inspection, as well as about the hygienic classification of the job depending on the harmful and hazardous factors for the industrial environment, and according to the burden and intensity of working processes. He presented also the sanitary norms and rules about the storage, transportation, use and sale of pesticides. He ended his speech with information on cooperation with international organizations.

Second plenary was dedicated to:

Impacts of chemical exposures on human health

Mrs. S. Patton Commonweal USA in her presentation entiteled: “Toxic chemical exposures and human health” emphasized the role of biomonitoring as the measurement of chemicals in the human body, detected in blood, urine, breastmilk, or other human "biospecimens." The resulting data, especially when they refer to synthetic chemicals known or suspected to be toxic, are often referred to as a "chemical body burden."

The connections between health and environment are becoming more evident as improvements in the public health tool of biomonitoring begin to reveal how our external industrial chemical environment takes up residence in our bodies and how the study of our internal environment can help establish new linkages between low levels of exposures and health outcomes.

Biomonitoring studies have especially increased our understanding about how toxic chemicals may affect women’s health in ways not previously understood.

The scientific data provided by biomonitoring also greatly expands our knowledge about how chemicals move in the environment and how we are exposed to them. Importantly, it can help elected officials and other policy makers make informed decisions about how to reduce harm, based on actual levels measured in the bodies of people.

Local communities can bring pressure for meaningful change in chemicals policy armed with biomonitoring information.

Dr. E. Zhukovskaja Medical Academy, Russia, in her presentation “РОРs in MEDICINE” highlighted the legal problems of POPs in Russian’s medicine. She mentioned such problems like absence of constant regulations POPS in medical supply goods; disinterest of federal and regional administrations in the necessary regulation acts; lack of laboratories for control supportive Separation of efforts of various services.

She mentioned the important role of NGO in promoting legacy regulation process of POPs in medicine with focus on:

  • Initiative activities of scientific researches in ecology

  • Public control of export of medical waste

  • Special projects of biological safety in hospitals, chemical and medical industry

  • International cooperation in ecology movements

Dr. E. Danielyan, WHO in Armenia,: Health system and its role in environmental health protection

Dr. E. Danielyan emphasized the necessity of consolidating and strengthening the national institutions and systems as the main prerequisite to achieve the objectives set in the various international conventions related to chemical safety and children’s health.

She presented the WHO vision on the main areas of work that need to be done with regards to increase of the chemical safety of children:

  • Education and training

  • Data and research needs on the link between chemical exposure and health outcomes

  • Indicators of environmental health (to measure progress in protecting children from chemical hazards and make further decisions)

Dr. Danielyan mentioned that Hazardous chemicals are on of the 4 CEHAPE goals:

“Promote clean production and adopt pollution prevention and other appropriate management prevention strategies that prevent or reduce children’s exposure to chemicals, in particular to those chemicals of highest concern issues”.

There is a need to put together all resources and institutions in charge of developing actions whose primary purpose is to improve health (that is health system) and move forward with renewed focus.

Dr. K. Saribekyan, Ministry of Health, RA, “Health system response to environmental risks for children” introduced the information on children’s health, the special vulnerability of children to be impacted of environmental pollution. She presented the Medical statistic on various diseases which could be linked with environmental pollution. Mrs. K. Saribekyan mentioned that the chemical hazard is one of the main global risks for the health of the children and noted that every year more than 5 000 000 children under 14 die from diseases related to the environment, predominantly in developing countries. She told that the accidental poisoning and chronic impact of chemical substances in small doses has serious negative effects on children’s health. Because of accidental poisoning every year 35 000 cases of death among children under 14 are registered. Mrs. Saribekyan emphasized that the increasing number of adverse effects are undoubtedly associated with chemical substances. She emphasized that the children’s health and environment needs to be high on the political agenda.

The third Plenary was focused on:

International and national tools for ensuring environmental and human health

Mr. Joe DiGangi, Environmental Health Fund USA, IPEN,: “International chemical conventions as tools to protect human health, introduction”

He highlighted the main goal of international agreements aimed on awareness of the health concerns, especially in developing countries, resulting from local exposure to persistent organic pollutants, in particular impacts upon women and, through them, upon future generations…”

The protection of human health and the environment from the harms caused by chemicals is addressed at both the global and national levels by the chemicals and wastes cluster of legally-binding Conventions (Rotterdam, Basel, and Stockholm) and the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM). The Rotterdam Convention provides information exchange on listed substances causing health or environmental problems. The Basel Convention seeks to protect human health and the environment by reducing the quantity and hazard potential of wastes and their international movement. The goal of the Stockholm Convention is to protect human health and the environment from persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

The speaker emphasized Why do we need SAICM - Strategic Approach to Integrated Chemical Management?

SAICM provides a global framework, a broad scope, and a multi-sectoral / multi-stakeholder approach to establish sound chemicals management. The High Level Declaration from Ministers of Environment around the world links sound management of chemicals to sustainable development. The SAICM goal set by heads of state at the World Summit on Sustainable Development is to use and produce chemicals in ways that lead to the minimization of significant adverse effects on human health and the environment by 2020. Countries can implement relevant elements of the Global Plan of Action to advance towards this goal. Greater financial support to developing and transition countries will be needed to achieve the SAICM goal. The sound management of chemicals is essential if we are to achieve sustainable development, including the eradication of poverty and disease, the improvement of human health and the environment

Dr. A. Aleksandryan, Ministry of Nature Protection, RA, “The viewpoint of chemicals and waste management issues under several environmental conventions signed by Armenia“

In her speech Dr. Alexandryan mentioned that in the Republic of Armenia after the ratification of the Stockholm Convention a Program of National Actions was developed related to the implementation of Convention Provisions. It concerns mainly the inventory, identification and disposal of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). The speaker touched upon the problem of burial site of obsolete pesticides and stated that the Ministry of Nature Protection currently undertakes measures to find donors for the solution of this problem and also for the implementation of the Convention Provisions. She told that the Ministry of Nature Protection has planned to hold a conference in the nearest future, where representatives from 33 countries will participate. The issues of toxic waste management from the tailing dumps will be discussed at the conference.

Dr. N. Bakunts, Ministry of Health, RA,

In the presentation entitled “Elaborating activities concerning the environment and health of children” Dr. N. Bakunts mentioned that the interested departments (19 ministries and departments) were inquired about the opinions and suggestions to include the Budapest Resolution and the Children’s Environment and Health Plan in Europe. The mentioned documents were compared with the National Plan on Environmental Hygiene (2002) and with the accepted recommendations. The existing Legislation, strategy and program related to children were analyzed (strategy for the Poverty Reduction, National Plan of Actions for the Protection of Children’s Rights (2004-2015), Interim Progam for Expenditures (2005-2007), annual program about the juvenile sport, etc. She told that there has been a suggestion to include aspects of environment and health of children into the National Plan of Environmental Hygiene, to develop a special chapter about the problems and actions concerning the environment and health of children. Dr. Bakunts introduced the methodology and the main needs including the harmonization of Legislation, institutional strengthening, introduction of methods to estimate the risk and burden of diseases, capacity building and the training of personnel, as well the technical and financial resources. She gave much importance to the ensuring the balance between the environmental activities and health of children, the development of the strategy for poverty reduction, etc.

The third panel was focused on

Identification of environmental risks from chemicals in Armenia

Mrs. M. Kranendonk, WECF, The Netherlands & Germany,: “International experience in protection of local population from environmental pollution in Europe”

The speaker introduced to the audience the international experience how to deal with obsolete pesticides stockpiles in countries in transition. The case study from Moldova was presented to estimate Armenian case.

If only temporary measures are taken if such dangerous pesticides are not cleaned up and destructed they will become major health, environmental and security risk in the future. Mrs. Kranendonk informed the audience that burial site in Armenia is more difficult to clean up due to landslide in this area. She summarized the situation around the obsolete pesticide site in Armenia

  1. • International expertise and support is absolutely required for Armenia

  2. • Temporary measures are not enough

• Situation is deteriorating, landslide

• Nearby village populations are at high risk

  1. • River below the site could transport the persistent toxics to Caspian sea

  1. Mr. A. Saghatelyan (co-authors: S.Arevshatyan, L.Sahakyan), The Center for Ecological-Noosphere Studies, National Academy of Sciences, RA,: “Ecological assessment of the results of a rocket fuel component “melange” treatment in Armenia ”

The reporter informed audience that the project on liquidation of a rocket fuel component “Melange” serves as an excellent example of realization of ecologically oriented technology, when no waste has been induced as a result of treatment of extremely harmful substance and an effective agricultural fertilizer has been obtained as well.

In the project frame the Center for Ecological-Noosphere Studies provided a control on the quality of the obtained fertilizer by basic parameters: the contents of Ca(NO3)2, pH and density. Synchronously, assessment was done for the impact of the treatment process and the application of the fertilizer upon the environment.. The speaker expressed the opinion that obtained outcomes allow conclude that the Melange treatment process and application of the obtained Fertilizer exerts no adverse impact upon the environment.

The project on liquidation of a rocket fuel component “Melange” serves as an excellent example of realization of ecologically oriented technology, when no waste has been induced as a result of treatment of extremely harmful substance and an effective agricultural fertilizer has been obtained as well.

Dr. A. Tadevosyan, Center of Ecological Research, RA “The status of research activities in the field of health protection and environment in the past and the present”

The speaker emphasized the gaps existed in the environmental health in Armenia:

Monitoring of habitat - practically does not exist.

Estimation of exposure level is missing.

Determination of priority of pollutants – the first experiments in the frame of grants.

The evaluation of the population under the exposure of pollutants is not performed.

Estimation of impact on health is not performed.

It means that the strict scientific data necessary for decision making are missing. Decisions on management adopted separately are not efficient. There are no substantiations, convincing data for pressure on legislative executive bodies The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Nature Protection lack natural stakeholders. The NGOs and the Press are defenseless and can speak only emotionally.

Demonstration of the FILM

By the end of the conference the film prepared by AWHHE on situation around the burial was shown to the audience and the expert of AWHHE Dr. L. Simonyan answered on all questions around the problem raised in the film.

AWHHE wish to acknowledge Women in Europe for a Common Future /WECF, Mrs. Sascha Gabizon/, The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons /OPCW, Mr. Bimal Patel/, The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe /OSCE, Mr. Carel Hofstra / as well as international experts - Mrs. Sharyle Patton, Mrs. Marie Kranendonk, Mr. Joe Di Gangi, Dr. Elena Zhukovskaja - for invaluable contribution that has moved forward the heath and environment agenda for Armenia that will be truly protective for human and ecosystem health. Special thanks to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Arshak Manukyan ) which support was crucial in initiation of this conference.

The impact expected

The conference featured some of the latest scientific evidence on the environment’s impact on human health, and provided a discussion forum on policy solutions needed to make progress in reducing the negative health effects of environmental factors such as toxic chemicals.

The conference called for the consideration of environmental health, based on sound science, in the negotiation and implantation of future, bilateral, regional and global agreements, such as persistent organic pollutants, long range trans-boundary air pollution, and trade in particularly dangerous pesticides, chemicals and hazardous wastes. It is expected that the issues of the conference will be in the focus of governmental policy related to environmental health. At present the pack of documents on the obsolete pesticide stockpiles and burial site issue is being prepared by Ministry of Nature Protection to protect the environment and human health of settlements that are under the risk of pollution. The working group with representatives of all interested agencies and NGOs is in the process of development. AWHHE is a member of this WG. The conference raised a great interest among mass media.

Just after the conference on 1 of November AWHHE was invited to press conference with journalists of several national mass media companies which was broadcasted the same day.

5 articles in national newspapers were published. Big discussion was initiated on the breast milk contamination by pesticides- DDT and its metabolites in Armenia.

At the conference was suggested to monitor the long term results of Melange project in terms of environmental effects.

Despite the fact that conference was held successfully AWHHE should admit that the responsible governmental legislative body was not present at the conference though their participation was confirmed. As a consequence there was no strong discussion around the environmental policy issue and the readiness of the relevant systems to protect human health.

Nevertheless for the first time, those invited had the opportunity to connect with each other in person to learn more about Chemical Safety and Human Health and to consider important next steps. Developed connection of participants will continue through follow–up meetings, conferences and created listserv.


Hazardous Chemicals

Chemical weapon

Persistent organic pollutants


Environmental disease

Risk exposure

Obsolete and banned pesticides

Environmental health

Annex 1: Abbreviations

Annex 2: List of Participants

Annex 3: Agenda Annex 4: Press release

Annex 5: Draft recommendations

Annex 6: Summary of activities carried out during the days of the conference



Persistent Organic Pollutants


Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe


Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons


Women in Europe for a common future


Armenian Women for Health and Healthy Environment


International POPs elimination network






Non-governmental organization


World health organization


United Nations


Children’s Environmental Health Action Plan in Europe


Strategic Approach to Integrsted Chemical Management


National Environmental and Health Action Plan


Chemical Weapon Convention


United Nation environmental Program


United Nation Development Program


United Nation international Development Organization

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