Quality of air in Bucharest-Romania: is it fog or is it smog?

Iohannis Romania

Mr Klaus IOHANNIS, President of Romania. Copyright: European Union

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Ana Bălan, member of FASMR, 3rd year medical student at Carol Davila University of Mecicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


It’s a cold, foggy winter morning in Bucharest, unlike the ones I’ve seen in the past 3 years since moving here. Today wasn’t the first day I asked myself “is it fog or is it smog?”, but it was the first day I was afraid the answer to my joking question could be “it’s actually smog”

The quality of air in Bucharest has become a rapidly increasing concern in the population, air  pollution exceeding “very high” levels as reported by the “aerlive.ro” NGO, currently ranking higher than Beijing on this subject. The European Commission opened an infringement procedure against Romania.

Air pollution is defined by the presence of harmful gases and particulate matter (PM) in the air. The principal pollutants are carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogenous dioxide (NO2) – also know as NOX, ozone (O3), sulphur dioxide (SO2), hydrocarbon and last, but not least PM10 and PM2,5.

PM is a complex mixture of very small liquid and solid particles, a group of pollutants that vary in size, composition and origin. PM10 and PM2,5  the 10 micrometre and 2,5 nanometre particles, are capable of infiltrating deep into the respiratory tract and cause serious health problems. They originate from traffic: CO2 emission, exhaust fumes and burnt car tire.

The chemical composition doesn’t suffice, completing the big picture of air pollution comes the meteorological data: temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure and wind speed, necessary for understanding the concentrations and distributions of these harmful particles.

According to the W.H.O., air pollution is responsible for 29% of pulmonary cancer-related deaths, 24% of stroke and 43% of COPD-related deaths. Even more concerning is that children under 15 are more vulnerable to air pollution, since they inhale 37% more NOX. It is medically proven that a low quality of air lead to aggravation of cardiac and pulmonary illness.

In spite of traffic being the major known source of pollution, something doesn’t fit the picture. During the winter break, the car usage was at 10% of its regular level, but the pollution levels didn’t drop proportionally. Unregulated, polluting construction sites in the middle of the city and lax regulations of burning waste, including plastic, oil and rubber are just 2 of the other major players.

Right now, air pollution in Bucharest is a sensitive, much debated problem. We are stuck in the middle of the run-for-mayor campaign and indifference. Even more so, it’s time for action: starting from education campaigns to concrete measures taken by the administration, like health policies regarding traffic: reducing the number of cars, promoting common transportation and encouraging greener alternatives. There’s no need to look outside the borders for examples, Turda being the first city of Romania with a fully electric public transportation system, Cluj following their lead.

Impactful measures should be taken by the capital’s citizens – demanding and protecting their most fundamental right- the Right to Live. We’re past asking questions, it’s time to demand the state’s institutions, the Environemental Guard and the Local Administration to answer  our call for immediate action.

Refferences

  1. https://aerlive.ro/particule-in-suspensie-pm10-si-pm2-5/
  2. https://aerlive.ro/impactul-poluarii-aerului-asupra-sanatatii-o-trecere-in-revista-a-dovezilor-stiintifice/
  3. https://aerlive.ro/category/metodologie/
  4. https://www.who.int/health-topics/air-pollution#tab=tab_1
  5. https://www.romania-insider.com/bbc-romania-waste-import
  6. https://ec.europa.eu/atwork/applying-eu-law/infringements-proceedings/infringement_decisions/index.cfm?lang_code=EN&typeOfSearch=true&active_only=1&noncom=0&r_dossier=&decision_date_from=&decision_date_to=&EM=RO&title=&submit=Search

About the author

Ana Bălan, member of FASMR, 3rd year medical student at Carol Davila University of Mecicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine. Ana is the coordinator of a local project, The Bioethicss Club, pertaining to SCORP – Standing Committee On Human Rights and Peace – here defending The Right to Clean Air, The Right to Health, The Right to Live.

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