Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) in the oil fields of the Apsheron* Peninsula (AP), Azerbaijan is widespread. NORM is a major source of environmental contamination of soils, surface and ground waters in Azerbaijan and the Caspian Sea. Geological formations at AP are composed of clays, sandstone, and limestone with radioactivity background within 6 μR/hr. At the tectonically disturbed zones of AP, radioactivity increases to 15-20 μR/hr. At some oil fields in South-Western area of AP and around iodine plants the level of radioactivity varies from 600 to 5,000 μR/hr. The origin of NORM in oil fields of AP is related to drilling, production, and processing operations. Other sources of contamination are oil well equipment where separation of contaminated water from oil and its subsequent reinjection into the oil field.

There are no environmental regulations in Azerbaijan related to NORM. The state committee for Nature Protection is responsible for environmental protection of Azerbaijan but it is hoped that this paper will bring attention to the environmental community that pollution at AP and around the Caspian Sea is close to national disaster. In some oil fields, soil contamination is so extensive and elevated that it needs to be disposed of as low-level radioactive waste.

The Azerbaijan government must have international assistance to clean-up its own environment. Azerbaijan needs financial support of international organizations and multinational oil companies, and involvement of industrialized nations for collecting field data and its interpretation for improving the environment at the Caspian Sea and its surroundings. Furthermore, experience gained from study of NORM in this region would be useful for researchers throughout the world. There is a very limited information about NORM and its health effects in literature.

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