Ninety percent of Bulgaria's urban population breathes polluted air

26 Феруари, 2016 - 11:52 - Rss - всички новини

Fourteen thousand Bulgarians die each year from illnesses caused by polluted air, a report of the European Environment Agency reads. The main reason for the earlier death of so many people is the excessive content of fine dust particles in the atmosphere. The average life expectancy in Bulgaria decreased by seven whole months as a result of the air pollution, the document further reads.
Meanwhile, another survey was also released and it is even more alarming. At a local health forum the Chairperson of the Bulgarian Society of Pulmonary Diseases Diana Petkova announced that 18,000 Bulgarians die each year from illnesses caused by polluted air.
When excessive amounts of harmful substances such as fine dust particles, Sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and lead enter the human body through the lungs, they pose a serious threat on peoples' health. The pulmonary diseases, cardiac diseases, brain illnesses, disorders in the reproductive functions and premature birth are only part of the negative consequences stemming from the air pollution issue. While Bulgaria places eight in Europe in terms of mortality rate, this country tops the European ranking of most air-polluted cities. Four out of five most-polluted European cities are situated in Bulgaria - Pernik, Plovdiv, Pleven and Dobrich. According to a survey carried out by the World Health Organization, quoted by Greenpeace on occasion of the World Lung Cancer Day, Bulgaria's capital Sofia places fifth in the world rankings of large cities with highest level of pollution caused by fine dust particles, where there is a 25% higher risk of lung cancer caused by air pollution.
“According to recent researches, over 90% of the people in Bulgaria's big cities have problems with the level of air pollution”, Valeri Serafimov from the Executive Environment Agency told Radio Bulgaria. “If the admissible quantities of fine dust particles exist for over 35 days per year, then we have a problem with air pollution caused by these particles. For example, In Vidin (Northwestern Bulgaria), this norm was exceeded in 187 days in 2015. Another city which has problems with air pollution caused by fine dust particles is Pleven (Central North Bulgaria), where the admissible norm was exceeded in 138 days of the year.”
Most fine dust particles come from the incineration of liquid and solid fuels, as well as from the automobile transport and the industry. Some of the simple solutions aimed at reducing the level of air pollution are linked with the traffic restraint, establishment of green areas in the big cities, regular street washing and the use of environmentally-friendly fuels for heating. All decisions are in the hands of the Bulgarian Municipalities Valery Serafimov further said and added:
“Each municipality must provide access to better sources of heating such as natural gas for instance. Such environmentally-friendly equipment has already been installed in many towns and cities. So, those who wish to use natural gas and have enough money to pay for the installation can join that system and contribute to the improvement of air quality. However, some towns and cities would struggle to achieve the desired results, if people are not convinced that they must shift to more environmentally friendly energy resource.”
The problem is that the poorest Bulgarians use solid fuels for heating. Expert Valeri Serafimov also admitted that the Ministry of Environment and Water has not yet adopted drastic measures aimed at banning the use of these fuels, because many people would struggle to pay for alternative energy resources. According to the last census of the Population in 2011, 57% of the people use solid fuels such as wood and coal, 26% use electricity for heating, 14% use central heating and only 1.5% of the Bulgarians use natural gas. Should people continue breathing polluted air due to the lack of a social solution?
“This is far from being normal, but unfortunately such is life in Bulgaria - there are many poor people who use solid fuels for heating. Moreover, many people living in Bulgaria's biggest cities also shift from central heating to coal and wood, because it costs them less money. So, it is all up to the Bulgarian people to solve this problem.”
Bulgaria is to receive EUR 60 million under the Environment Operational Programme, in order to solve the air pollution issue. Besides, in 2016 the Bulgarian municipalities are to receive an extra EUR 56 million for the construction of green areas and the purchase of new environmentally-friendly busses for the public transport.
English: Kostadin

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