Study: Lebanese Motorists Exposed To High Levels of Air Pollution on the Road
Motorists along the Beirut-Jounieh highway are exposed to twice the acceptable levels of air pollutants set by the World Health Organization, a new study revealed.
The study was conducted by the American University of Beirut in collaboration with Rasamny Younis Motor Company – RYMCO, Nissan’s exclusive dealer in Lebanon, and Bank Audi s.a.l – Audi Saradar Group, and the results were announced at a joint press conference held at AUB on May 24, 2012.
Entitled the “Moving Van Monitoring Particulate Matter Pollution in Real Time on a Busy Street in Lebanon,” the project was launched over a year ago. The Nissan Urvan van, which set off on its mission in December 2010, roamed the main Beirut-Jounieh freeway, collecting pollution samples for over a year.
“The results showed that getting stuck in traffic for hours is not only stressful, but bad for our health,” said Najat Saliba, AUB associate professor of chemistry and lead investigator on the study.
Saliba noted that her team had measured that, on a daily basis, a commuter who spends at least one hour in traffic is exposed to 22 microgram/m3 of fine particulate matter in the air. “This value is twice the amount recommended by WHO and will increase this person’s probability of death by 20 percent,” she warned.
“Our lives depend on maintaining a balanced ecosystem,” said Fayez Rasamny, chairman of RYMCO. “Working on reducing the harmful environmental effects of their vehicles in order to hand down a healthy global environment to future generations, Nissan was a pioneer, investing billions of dollars in Research and Development to create a line of models that will serve this goal.”
The study, which also monitored the pollution levels on the sides of the road, found that shops and people along the sides of the road are exposed to 20 percent more particle pollution than those in the middle of the street. Moreover, the level of car emissions was 10 times higher than that found on the roads of most European and U.S. countries. The culprits: old, ill-maintained cars, a large number of cars, and high levels of traffic congestion.
“We call upon governmental and non-governmental organizations to help in solving this acute air pollution problem in the city,” said Saliba.
She listed three important measures to reduce pollution stressing that drivers should avoid stopping in the middle of the road or double parking, government bodies should be stricter about road-worthiness tests, and governmental and non-governmental bodies should immediately start working on enhancing existing public transportation facilities and devising new ones.
Khalil Debs, assistant general manager and head of Group Corporate Banking at Bank Audi sal - Audi Saradar Group, added: “Air pollution affects every individual living in the country, and we believe it is high time that such an environmental issue be addressed.”
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, fine particles are so small that they can go deep into the lungs and cause serious health problems. Numerous scientific studies have linked particle pollution exposure to a variety of problems, including: increased respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing, or difficulty breathing; decreased lung function; aggravated asthma; development of chronic bronchitis; irregular heartbeat; nonfatal heart attacks; and premature death in people with heart or lung disease.