Air pollution impact on our lives – worst levels at Imsida, the best at Għarb
A scientific study on air pollution, published in an international journal, calculates the long term effect of this pollution on people’s health. In general the study shows a reduction in fine elements of pollution in the country, however with worrying trends in the region of Imsida, Valletta, Tas-Sliema and Birkirkara, probably due to traffic and a greater density in population.
Dr Sara Fenech and Dr Noel Aquilina from the University’s Geo-science department carried out an independent study published in a international scientific journal. The study was done with the assistance of the past 10 years of information collected by four stations of the Environment and Resources Authority.
Dr Fenech said that the mortality rate in Gozo is estimated at seventeen times less than that at Imsida and the surrounding area. “For example, at Għarb – a rural site – we quantified up to 0.7%, but when we look at other places with bigger air pollution, such as Imsida, there is 12%….far greater due to air pollution when compared with rural places”.
Dr Aquilina noted a significant improvement with levels less than those of the European directives limits. “The fine particles, called PM2.5, decreased in all stations in which ERA gathers data as well as the Nitrogen Dioxide is decreasing on the basis of information gathered during the past nine years”.
During the same period, at the Imsida and Żejtun stations, the two specialists noted an increase in rough particles in the air, which they suspect is caused by traffic. Although the study focused on air pollution and the effects on persons’ health on a longer time, Dr Aquilina stated that pollution from these elements at home or at work has also a negative impact.
“We spend 80 to 90% of time at home and the same pollutants come from three very important sources – cooking, smoking and gas heaters or fireplaces. In reality we are being exposed to them and have nothing to do with outside pollution, although we know that few levels enter buildings from outside”.
Dr Fenech’s and Dr Aquilina’s study stressed on the importance of continuous monitoring of air quality in different environments with particular attention on pollution elements in the Maltese islands. They maintain that these can be addressed with a change in our behaviour, including less use of private vehicles.