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Nicosia air pollution costs residents a year of their lives

January 1, 2019 at 9:00am

Nicosia residents lose on average a year of their lives due to high levels of air pollution, professor Jean Sciare director of the Energy Environment and Water Research Center (EEWRC) of the Cyprus Institute, said.

According to Sciare, Cyprus’ air pollution levels are above the EU limit as air quality is significantly affected by dust levels from Africa and fossil fuel emissions from the Middle East.

Cyprus is located in a a major air-pollution region, Sciare said, as the Eastern-Mediterranean and Middle East area is also regularly affected by dust storms, dryness, and heat extremes, as well as high levels of particulate matter (PM).

Around 400 people die prematurely and 8,000 years of life are lost per year in Cyprus because of particulate matter, Sciare said.

The economic cost of air pollution is around 748.16 million euro, 3.3% of the country’s GDP annual GDP, the professor added.

However, despite regional causes, 2/3 of the air-pollution in Nicosia is emitted locally. “Local emissions account for 2/3 of total concentrations and therefore steps can be taken for their mitigation,” Sciare said.

The Institute found that the main sources of pollution were traffic (17%), cooking (15%), primary biomass burning (16%), secondary biomass burning (16%), while 35% was caused by dust and activities in the region.

Yearly average PM1 levels in Nicosia were calculated at 22μg per cubic metre, with December being the month with the most pollution (30.5μg), due to wood burning.

According to Sciare, this figure is higher than that of Paris, whose average air pollution is measured at 20μg per cubic metre.

“The high levels of air pollution in December are attributed to woodburning fragments, from burning wood in fireplaces,” Sciare said, adding that 2/3 of Nicosia’s pollution in December came from woodburning fragments.

Fireplaces are major pollutants, since they are the most “primitive form” of heating. “They do not use any technology. When we light fireplaces we are burning wood in the same way we did thousands of years ago,” Sciare said.