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July 26, 2012

Officials Probe Discovery of Fetuses Dumped in Siberia

by Jessica Golloher

MOSCOW — Russian police are investigating how hundreds of fetuses ended up in barrels in the Ural Mountains of Siberia. Some officials say the remains may have been used for illegal scientific research.

The discovery this week of several hundred fetuses in blue barrels, in a remote wooded area in the Sverdlov region of Siberia has been top news across Russia.

Officials say the mummified remains were fetuses from 22 to 26 weeks of development.
 
National Center of Ecological and Epidemic Safety Executive Director Vladislav Zhukov said the discovery raises serious health concerns about the disposal of medical waste in Russia.

He said there have been previous cases in which medical waste was dumped into an open sandpit, and that the sand later ended up at kids' playgrounds. Children were found playing with ampoules and expired medicine.

Local health authorities say they have sent inquiries to all hospitals with maternity wards and facilities that specialize in the disposal of biomaterials within a 100-kilometer radius, to see if they have any knowledge of the fetuses.

Officials say embryos and fetuses from abortions and miscarriages often are used for stem-cell research in Russia, where therapeutic and reproductive cloning are against the law. Russian legislation also forbids abortions after 12 weeks, unless the safety of the mother or the fetus is at stake, or in the case of sexual assault.

Meanwhile, Russian media are reporting that a local police official said the remains could have been intended for use in scientific research.

Institute of Stem Cell Research Director Alexander Teplyashin disputes the claim the remains were for research.

He said they would have been of no use for regenerative medicine because they were past being able to be used for research. He said he does not understand why so many fetuses ended up in barrels of formaldehyde. He said that is just preservation.

Russian media, though, are reporting lawmakers disagree, saying they believe the remains could have been from a medical facility that was performing illegal abortions and scientific research.