Thursday: Toxic Sludge Reaches Danube; Karzai Opens Peace Council

BY Tom LeGro  October 7, 2010 at 10:35 AM EDT

The toxic red sludge that has been winding its way though villages in Hungary this week — the result of a metal plant reservoir that burst its banks — reached parts of the Danube River on Thursday, an emergency official said.

European Union and environmental officials fear an environmental catastrophe affecting half a dozen nations if the sludge, a waste product of making aluminum, contaminates Europe’s second-longest river.

Here’s part of the ITN report you may have seen on the NewsHour Wednesday:

The sludge is a strong alkali, which will cause burns if it comes into contact with skin, and can damage lungs and the digestive system if ingested, which may cause death.

Foreign Policy explains:

“[T]he area’s soil could be contaminated for years to come. Children and pregnant women are most at risk, from high levels of lead, can cause birth defects and brain damage….Once the sludge dries, the lead may be even more dangerous. If inhaled, the sludge dust can cause respiratory problems, even lung cancer.”

Karzai Opens Peace Council

Afghan President Hamid Karzai hosted the inaugural session of a peace council set up to reconcile with the Taliban and other insurgent groups. Contacts between the Afghan government and Taliban are increasing, according to recent reports, but no formal negotiations are under way.

Elsewhere, an airstrike and a raid by ground troops killed eight insurgents, including a senior Taliban leader, NATO said Thursday as the war in Afghanistan entered its 10th year.

In statement marking the ninth anniversary of the U.S. invasion, the Taliban claimed 75 percent of the country under its control. At least 2,003 NATO service members have died fighting in Afghanistan since Oct. 7, 2001, according to the Associated Press.