Journal of Environmental Protection, 2011, 2, 90-96
doi:10.4236/jep.2011.21010 Published Online March 2011 (
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Contamination of Camel Milk (Heavy Metals,
Organic Pollutants and Radionuclides) in
Gaukhar Konuspayeva1, Stefan Jurjanz2, Gerard Loiseau3, Vincent Barci4, Shynar Akhmetsadykova1,3,5,
Aliya A. Meldebekova1, Bernard Faye5
1Al Farabi Kazakh National University, Al Farabi, Almaty, Kazakhstan; 2USC INRA/Nancy Université: Animal et Fonctionnalités
des Produits Animaux, Vandoeuvre cedex, France; 3UMR Qualisud, CIRAD, Montpellier, France; 4Université de Nice Sophia-
Antipolis, Laboratoire de Radiochimie, Nice cedex, France; 5CIRAD-Département Environnements et Sociétés, Campus Interna-
tional de Baillarguet, Montpellier, France.
Received September 8th, 2010; revised November 3rd, 2010; accepted December 17th, 2010.
In Kazakhstan, camel breeding mainly occupies areas sometimes close to polluting industries o r other sources of pollu-
tion as industrial agriculture, mainly cotton. Products issued from camel farms close to these sources as camel raw
milk and fermented milk (shubat), wool and meat, traditionally used b y humans could be con tamina ted. We investigated
camel raw milk and fermented milk fo r the con tent o f heavy metals (lead, cadmium, zinc and copper), radionuclide and
some organic pollutants (PAHs, pesticides and indi c a tor PCBs) in samples from different regions with a priori high risk
of pollution (Atyr a u, Kyzylorda, South-Kazakhstan and Almaty region). In the present paper, only some milk samples
presented high lead concentration (>500 ppb). After analysis for organic pollutants, it was observed some traces of
hexachlorocyclohexane, lindane, hexanchlorothalonil in milk samples from different regions. One sample was also
slightly contaminated with radionuclide. These preliminary results allow establishing a first map of risk for camel
farming. As the whole, South-Kazakhstan appeared the most exposed region.
Keywords: Camel Milk, Pollutant, Heavy Met a l, Pesticides, Radionuclides
1. Introduction
The consumption of camel milk is very popular in Ka-
zakhstan where it is known for its medicinal and dietary
properties [1]. These properties are widely exploited for
human health, as it is in several countries from the
ex-Soviet Union and developing countries [2,3]. But
nowadays, the country is immersed in an “ecological
crises”, due to the specific place for nuclear test by soviet
government for long a time, and to the development of
irrigation for cotton field linked with decreasing Aral Sea
level. In addition, the manufacturing of metals and the
minerals had high impact on environmental contamina-
tion, few control of rejecting contaminants being imple-
mented. In those conditions, milk producing camels can
be exposed to several indesirable compounds. Some ref-
erences on heavy metals content in cow and breast milk
are available [4,5]. But concerning sheep and goat milk
there are few references, and none on camel milk.
In Kazakhstan, camel breeding occupies areas some-
times close to polluting industries or other sources of
pollution as industrial agriculture (mainly cotton) or
highly frequented traffic ways. Products issued from
camel farms close to these sources as camel milk and
shubat (fermented product), can come into the Human
food chain via dairy products. Indeed, Kazakh habitants
consume on average 210 kg of milk and dairy products
per year what make them quite exposed if camel milk
would be polluted. In such case, concerns of public
health may arise and need to be integrated in the risk
Also, in Kazakhstan, lead, copper, iron, zinc and cad-
mium are currently used in industrial process, and PCBs
are often linked to an industrial waste discharged in the
environment. Pesticides are used in industrial agriculture
and radionuclides are linked to the nuclear sites or wast-
In the present paper, pollutant residues (heavy metals
Contamination of Camel Milk (Heavy Metals, Organic Pollutants and Radionuclides) in Kazakhstan91
as copper, zinc, lead and cadmium, radionuclides as ce-
sium137 and organic pollutants) are investigated in raw
and fermented milk from different regions with high risk
of pollution (Almaty, Atyrau, Kyzylorda, Zhambyl and
South-Kazakhstan region).
2. Material and Methods
2.1. Sampling Procedure
The sampling procedures were achieved in 24 farms
where camel raw milk (herd mixed milk) and fermented
milk (shubat) processed within farm were collected.
They belonged to 4 oblasts (regions) chosen for their
potentially contaminated environment: Almaty, Kyzy-
lorda, Atyrau, and South-Kazakhstan oblasts. Samples
were taken from dromedary camels (one hump), Bactrian
camels (two humps) and hybrids camels. The contami-
nating sources, as manufacturing, oil forages and spatial
base were identified: in Almaty region, some exhaust
gases near biggest city; in Atyrau region, oil forage, and
in Kyzylorda region the spatial base of Baïkanour, small
asphalt factory; in South-Kazakhstan and Zhambyl re-
gion, polymetal industries and phosphate manufacturing
(Kengtaw, Aca, Karatau) and cotton field (Figure 1). Ac-
cording to importance of potential pollution by heavy met-
als in Zhambyl area, the heavy metals analysis in milk
included this fifth region, contrary to the other parameters
limited to four regions.
In the present study for radionuclide content, 20 sam-
ples of raw camel milk and 16 samples of lyophilized
camel milk were analyzed in order to evaluate the rate in
137Cs by detection of gamma radiation (Nice University).
Those samples came also from four regions of Kazakh-
stan (Atyrau, Aralsk, Shymkent and Almaty) at various
distances from nuclear test areas.
2.2. Heavy Metals Determination
The analysis of heavy metals and trace elements in milk
and shubat were achieved in two steps:
Mineralisation by wet oxidation to destroy the organic
matter in presence of nitric, sulphuric and perchloric ac-
ids. The advantage of this method, compared to the dry
way method, is the lack of volatile elements loss. Ten ml
of milk sample was added with nitric acid reagent 65%
(Carlo Erba Reagents SA). Then the mixture was placed
in a ceramic capsule on a heating plate up to 500˚C for 4
hours. Nitric acid 65% was added again on the ashes then
evaporated on the heating plate up to the total destruction
of the organic matter. When the solution was white, the
solution was diluted up to 10 ml with distilled water
containing 1% nitric acid.
This analysis was achieved by ICP methods (Inductively
Coupled argon Plasma–Atomic Emission Spectrometer
Figure 1. Map of sampling sites of camel milk and shubat in Kazakhstan.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Contamination of Camel Milk (Heavy Metals, Organic Pollutants and Radionuclides) in Kazakhstan
(ICP AES), Varian Vista MPX–CCD), in laboratory of
CIRAD-UR Qualisud (Montpellier-France). The quanti-
fication of the elements was performed by the standard
addition method, using 11 point standard curve. Ac-
cuTraceTM Reference Standard solutions used were
Quality Control Standard #1Accu Standard® and Labo-
ratory Performance Check Standard AccuStandard®.
2.3. Pesticides Determination
The pesticides and indicator PCBs in milk are deter-
mined after extraction of the fat matter by gas chroma-
tography following a normalized procedure [6].
PAHs and their hydroxylated metabolites are analyzed
as previously published for cow and goat milk [7]. Ac-
cording to the high cost of analysis of all organic pollut-
ants and the large number of molecules involved, analy-
sises were performed on mixed milk from 4 regions
(Atyrau, Kyzylorda, Zhambyl and South-Kazakhstan
2.4. Radionuclides Determination
For the analyze of radionuclides, a γ-radio detector HPGe
vertical, was used with a standard for liquid samples:
137Cs accounted in similar plastic bottle than those con-
taining the camel milk sample, matrix 86.60 g solution,
reference activity of the standard being, 137Cs (T1/2 =
30.7 a) 88.6 ± 1.5 Bq; time accounting: 250 000 s; com-
parison of accounting rate for 137Cs, gamma 661.657 keV
[8]. These analyses included all individual milk samples
from the fourth retained regions as mentioned above, but
not the shubat.
2.5. Statistical Analysis
Descriptive statistics were carried out (mean and stan-
dard deviation) for each heavy metal. Simple variance
analysis was performed for assessing the region effect.
Correlations between values in milk and shubat were
assessed by the Pearson correlation test when it was jus-
Concentrations of PAHs were analysed by graphic rep-
resentation of their profil at each site. Nevertheless, the
results of pesticides and indicator PCBs were summa-
rized in a first step by the frequency of concentrations
overstepping the analytical thresholds. A second step
compared obtained concentrations.
3. Results
The results are given for each type of pollutants (heavy
metals, organic pollutants, radionuclides).
3.1. Heavy Metals
The concentrations in heavy metals in the four oblasts of
Kazakhstan: (Almaty, Atyrau, Kyzylorda, Zhambyl and
South-Kazakhstan) were on average very low for copper
(less than 0.05 ppm), normal in zinc (around 5 ppm) and
cadmium, but slighty high for lead (Table 1).
The variance analysis showed significant higher values
in Almaty compared to other regions for all the parame-
ters except zinc, both in milk and shubat, and cadmium
in shubat. Lead was also significantly higher in South-
Kazakhstan (shymkent area) compared to Kyzylorda,
Zhambyl and Atyrau region both in milk and shubat. A
slight significant difference was observed for zinc in
milk between Kyzylorda and the other regions.
According to the correlation matrix, few significant
correlation were observed between element cadmium and
lead in the milk, but the concentrations in zinc, lead and
cadmium were highly correlated to the same parameters
in shubat (Table 2).
3.2. Organic Pollutants
Organic pollutants were quantified only in camel milk
from regions representing risks due to existing emitting
sources (Atyrau, Kyzylorda, Zhambyl and South-Ka-
Several compounds of PAHs were not found in camel
milk. Indeed, concentrations of Anthracene, Cyclopenta
[c,d] pyrène, Dibenzo [a,e] pyrène, Dibenzo [a,i] pyrène,
Dibenzo [a,h] pyrène, Dibenzo [a,l] pyrène and Benzo [c]
fluorine were under the quantification limit and no hy-
droxylated metabolite of phenanthrene, pyrene or benzo
[a] pyrene was revealed. The profil of the 13 remaining
PAH compounds showed occurrence of the lightest
compounds (phenanthrene, fluorenthene and pyrene) as
well as traces of intermediate and heavy compounds
(Figure 2). Occurrence and concentrations of compounds
in camel milk collected in the region of Atyrau (West-
Kazakhstan) were sometimes absent or lower in com-
parison to milk from South-Est Kazakhstan (Zhambyl
and Shymkent). Camel milk from the region Kyzylorda
shows a different profil: nearly all parent PAHs are pre-
sent but lightest compounds are in lower concentrations
in comparison to South-East Kazakhstan.
Indicator PCBs were only revealed in milk from the
Kyzylorda oblast but at a low level (0.95 ng/g), and
mainly PCBs 52 and 138. With a daily consumption of
630 g of milk/habitant, the DJT would be 600 ng/man on
Analysis of pesticides shows presence of HCHs (beta,
delta, and only in the Kyzylorda oblast also gamma HCH).
Moreover, DDT was found in milk from the Kyzylorda
oblast (0.8 μg/kg) and Chlorothalonil in milk of the cot-
ton area of Shymkent (0.5 μg/kg).
Thus, pesticides are absent in West-Kazakhstan (Atyrau
oblast) but different compounds were revealed in milk
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Contamination of Camel Milk (Heavy Metals, Organic Pollutants and Radionuclides) in Kazakhstan93
Table 1. Mean value and SD of the copper, zinc, lead and cadmium content of camel milk and shubat per 5 regions of Ka-
zakhstan (in ppm).
Cu Zn Pb Cd
Regions Milk Shubat Milk Shubat Milk Shubat Milk Shubat
Almaty 0.07a 0.06a 4.90 5.50 0.06a 0.06a 0.003a 0.003
Atyrau < 0.05b < 0.05b 4.75b 6.50 < 0.01c < 0.01a < 0.001b < 0.001
Kyzylorda < 0.05b < 0.05b 5.31a 5.70 0.02c 0.02a < 0.001b < 0.001
Zhambyl < 0.05b < 0.05b 4.85b 4.50 0.01c 0.01a < 0.001b < 0.001
South-Kaz. < 0.05b < 0.05b 4.07b 4.16 0.04b 0.04c 0.002b 0.002
Region Effect P < 0.05 P < 0.001 NS NS P < 0.001 P < 0.005 NS NS
Root MSE 0.007 0.002 1.115 1.593 0.013 0.014 0.001 0.001
Total mean 0.05 ± 0.01 0.05 ± 0.03 4.70 ± 1.165.06 ± 1.590.03 ± 0.020.03 ± 0.02 0.002 ± 0.001 0.002 ± 0.001
a,b,cthe different letters expressed the significant differences at least at P < 0.05.
Table 2. Correlation matrix between the heavy metals in milk (L) and shubat (S). The significant values (p > 0.05) were in
bold character.
Variables CuL ZnL PbL CdL CuS ZnS PbS CdS
CuL 1 –0.082 0.397 0.109 0.203 –0.114 0.120 –0.143
ZnL –0.082 1 –0.037 –0.167 0.021 0.606 –0.174 0.026
PbL 0.397 –0.037 1 0.606 0.351 –0.193 0.737 0.639
CdL 0.109 –0.167 0.606 1 0.354 –0.308 0.477 0.458
CuS 0.203 0.021 0.351 0.354 1 0.016 0.389 0.321
ZnS –0.114 0.606 –0.193 –0.308 0.016 1 –0.094 0.004
PbS 0.120 –0.174 0.737 0.477 0.389 –0.094 1 0.677
CdS –0.143 0.026 0.639 0.458 0.321 0.004 0.677 1
Figure 2. Concentration of different PAHs in camel milk collected in different regions of Kazakhstan.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Contamination of Camel Milk (Heavy Metals, Organic Pollutants and Radionuclides) in Kazakhstan
sampled in South Kazakhstan, especially in the cotton
areas Shymkent and Kyzylorda. Contamination of camel
milk collected in the Zhambyl region showed an inter-
mediate number of pesticides present in milk (only
gamma and delta HCHs).
3.3. Radionuclides
If we consider the limit at 95% confidence, a single sam-
ple from South-Kazakhstan region had detectable activity
(0.294 ± 0.076 Bq/kg), but at 90% confidence interval, 2
samples of raw milk and 7 samples of powder milk had
also a detectable radiological activity (> 0.028 Bq).
Those samples came mainly from South-Kazakhstan
4. Discussion
According to the literature, human activities close to the
sampling area influence the concentration of heavy met-
als in milk. Especially, traffic road intensity plays a role
on lead content in cow milk. The lead content in milk
was positively correlated to the traffic density, (from
0.36 ppm on average for a traffic density of 10 vehicles
per day to 7.20 ppm on average for a traffic density of
15000 vehicles per day) [9]. Lead concentration in cow
milk was on average of 0.00132 ppm in rural area and of
0.25 ppm in industrial area and 0.032 ppm close a road
[10-12]. In Germany and Holland, higher value allowed
is 0.05 ppm of Pb in milk; 0.02 ppm in Turkey and 0.1
ppm in Kazakhstan. In industrial area, lead concentration
of cow milk varied from 0.049 ppm to 0.067 ppm, with
higher mean value of 0.844 ppm near zinc and lead
smelter [12-14].
Concerning others heavy metals, few references were
available. Zinc content in milk seems to be in the normal
range even in animals reared near industrial or traffic
areas, Although, milk from industrial contained signifi-
cantly more zinc than in traffic and rural area, 5.01 ppm,
4.49 ppm and 3.77 ppm respectively [12].
For copper, observations were similar: the proximity
of industrial area increased significantly the copper con-
centration in cow milk as well as traffic area, cow milk
from rural area containing less copper (0.96 ppm, 0.58
ppm et 0.39 ppm respectively) [12].
It was impossible to attest if lead contamination of
camel milk was important or not, as no reference was
available. Reported values in our sample were on average
higher than the tolerable value of 0.02 ppm proposed in
Turkey, but under the normal value of 0.05 ppm consid-
ered in Germany and Holland and 0.1 ppm in Kazakhstan.
However, in some farms, the values could overpass 0.05
ppm especially at Almaty and South-Kazakhstan. Bhati
and Choudhry (1996), Dey and Swarup (1996) and Sim-
sek et al., (2000) considered that cattle reared close to
manufacturing or roads produced a milk containing sig-
nificantly higher levels of lead [9,12,13]. However, in all
these studies, lead concentration in milk was very vari-
able, with higher value between 0.032 ppm and 7.20 ppm
[9,14]. Taking in consideration all these informations, it
was possible that the highest lead concentration in milk
from some farms could be due to the proximity of road
with high traffic.
Very few references were available on shubat, but it is
admitted that the normal values were similar than for raw
milk [15]. This seemed to be confirmed by correct corre-
lations between raw milk and shubat for zinc and lead.
Contrarily, the low relationship for copper was surprise-
Concerning organic pollutants in camel milk, at our
knowledge, no data are available in the literature. The
revealed concentrations of all organic pollutants seem
surprisingly low when compared to obvious contamina-
tion of the environment in these areas. Thus, the sources
of pollution were not always found back in the analyzed
PAH emitting sources correspond to three groups ac-
cording to industrial activities (energy production, met-
allurgy, cement works, chemical industries…), urban
activities (transport, management and processing of
waste) and husbandries (mud spreading, domestic heat-
ing) [16]. In addition, dairy animals like camel could be
contaminated with PAHs by the air, the soils and the
plants. The oil forages in Atyrau do not seem to affect
PAH contents in milk of this area. It should be clarified if
ingestion behavior of camels would protect them against
intake of PAHs deposited on soil or grass. The milks
form the South–East oblasts Zhambyl and Shymkent
show quite classic PAH-profils with mainly presented
light compounds (phenanthrene, fluoranthene and pyrene)
but only few heavy compounds. The profile of the
Kyzylorda oblast is quite untypical: light compounds do
not clearly dominate and nearly all 13 compounds are
presented. This profil can not be due to classical ob-
served emitting sources. The absence of hydroxyl me-
tabolites in camel milk seems to confirm that these ani-
mals are less exposed than classical dairy ruminants.
Differences in the eating behavior could be an explana-
Pesticides were found mainly in cultivation areas but
in concentrations under European thresholds. Especially
Chlorothalonil is used against aphids and therefore its
occurrence in cotton cultivation areas was not surprising.
Only one milk sample shows notable concentrations of
indicator PCBs which are transferred up to 80% [16,17]
to milk in ruminants. Nothing is known in what extent
such compounds were deposited in the fat matter of
camel humps. Moreover, interactions between fat matter
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Contamination of Camel Milk (Heavy Metals, Organic Pollutants and Radionuclides) in Kazakhstan95
in the hump and milk fat are not clear nowadays. Thus,
camel milk in Kazakhstan being very rich in fat matter,
the possibility to export residues of POPs in camel milk
is not negligible [18] even if found concentrations re-
mained generally low and under thresholds of European
food laws.
Concerning the radionuclides, several analyses were
performed in Kazakhstan in human milk because the
nuclear tests at Soviet time were common. But no data
was available in camel milk. However, the impact of
nuclear test on radiological contamination of milk ap-
peared lower than in meat of animals reared in the close
polluted areas [15]. According to literature data involv-
ing other species, the transfer of radionuclides to milk is
less than 1% [20].
5. Conclusions
In spite of the importance of pollution risks in Kazakh-
stan as mentioned by all the international agencies, the
residues of pollutants in camel milk did not appear dra-
matic although some high values can be observed locally.
It appears, however, than the oblast of South-Kazakhstan
where the concentration of polluting industries is high,
and in a less extent, the Almaty oblast which is highly
urbanized, are the most exposed area. However, the me-
tabolism of those pollutants in camel organism and the
transfer of those molecules to the consumers remain un-
6. Acknowledgements
This study was achieved partly with the support of the
program ECONET (French Ministry of Foreign Affairs).
Our acknowledgement is also for French Embassy in
Kazakhstan for their support and help. Thanks to all the
labs having contributed to the analysis in CIRAD and
ENSAIA-Nancy. And finally, our grateful to the camel
farmers having accepted the milk sampling.
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