Lebanon suffers pollution by land, sea and air Citizens' average age down by 25%

Fri 18 Mar 2016 at 13:13 Economy
Written by Rana Serhan
Translated by Daisy Khalil

NNA - Health hazards are closing little by little on Lebanese citizens after the major environmental risks that took the country by storm over the past few years.
Analysts and experts either settled for describing the situation as 'alarming' or attempted to claim the waste crisis 'innocent' of the many cases of infection and death in Lebanese hospitals; however, studies reveal a dreadful opposite reality.

Describing this ugly truth, Dr. Suha Kinj Sharar, Head of the Bacterial Diseases Department at the American University Medical Center told the National News Agency that "waste is an indicator of the risk which began to dominate over the lives of the Lebanese citizens."

"We must spot the diseases generating from waste proliferation rather than settle for predicting what will happen next. Waste and toxins are the main reason for the increased incidence of bacterial stomach diseases which doubled in percentage throughout this year. We have been witnessing remarkable widespread of salmonella bacteria, which usually spreads during summer only, as opposed to this year," Sharara said, explaining that Salmonella usually manifests 12 hours to three days after the infection occurs.

"The symptoms include fever, abdominal cramps and severe diarrhea, and they may last for 5 days to a week. However, the bowel activity could not be back to normal until several months after the occurrence of the first symptoms," she added, noting that the signs are more serious among elderly, infants and people with chronic diseases, such as diabetes.

"Some types of salmonella can cause typhoid fever which is a deadly disease that can lead to a rise in temperature up to 40 degrees, a case that is more prevalent in developing countries," she said, explaining that "typhoid fever has been reoccurring in Lebanon for some time, but it began to grow significantly after the waste crisis, akin to insect-borne skin infections, mainly in overpopulated cities."
"Sever Pneumonia is also spreading among adults above the age of fifty," Sharara concluded.

On a different note, professor of chemistry and director of the Nature Conservation Center at the American University of Beirut, Dr. Najat Saliba said "the results of the study made by the research unit on the air quality (...) are disastrous. The study confirmed that Lebanese citizens' average age, relatively to what they breathe of oxygen in the air, is shorter by 25%."

"The research unit has been assessing cancer risks during the days where waste was being burned, and it turned out airborne carcinogens have increased by 2300 percent in those days," she explained.

Saliba said "based on the results we have obtained with the help of the scientific research center managed by Dr. Moiin Hamzeh, who spared no effort to detect what the citizens are inhaling amid these environmental crimes, the study revealed that the daily rates of particles with a diameter of 10 micrometers or less -- 2.5 micrometers or less -- exceeded the rates mentioned in the 24-hr directives of the WHO by up to 276%. A massive increase in these particles' level has been recorded on October 5 and 17."

"In addition to that, another indicator of burning garbage has been measured; it is the concentration of metals as lead, cadmium, manganese, titanium, chromium and arsenic -- as per Method IO-3.5 of the United States Agency for Environmental Protection. This study revealed an increase of 98 to 144%," Saliba went on, explaining that organic substances, specifically the toxic sixteen Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, also showed that the most carcinogen substance among these, named Benzo[a]pyrene, has doubled by about 2.3 times.

"(...) In conclusion, the short-term risk of cancer increased by about one in a million to 18 people in the days during which garbage was burned," she said.

"When the research unit reviewed these direct threats to the health of the population (…), it published the information it had in a bid to reduce this risk, and that after Health Minister Wael Abou Faour insisted on forming an Emergency Committee to follow-up on this dossier, and after the decision to prevent municipalities from burning garbage," Saliba said.

"The [Health] Ministry's staff worked on more than one front in epidemiological surveillance (...) to complete the process of water testing in certain places and make the necessary contact with relevant ministries. But the required follow-up has not been fulfilled, perhaps for lack of potentials," Saliba said, accusing the Ministry of Environment of paying little attention to the issue of climate pollution from the burning of waste.

"As for our maritime concerns, we warn the Lebanese not to approach the beaches, starting with spring and summer, because Smallpox is spread close to the beach. We claim serious support for real studies to reveal how clean is the sea water from E.Coli disease," she urged.

- Agricultural Research Institute report:

Not far from that, the report released by the Agricultural Research Institute gives evidence to the real disaster in water resources in Lebanon, based on analyzing rivers' water. (...) Studies demonstrate that the water of rivers flowing into the sea contains mercury, lead, copper, arsenic and nitrogen.

The report reveals that the level of Staphylocoque Pseudomonas bacteria in waters ranges between 7 and 40 million/ml, which is considered deadly. If not lethal, it could lead to weakness in the retina, loss of vision and miscarriage.

It is essential to know that waste sludge pours into springs and rivers down to the groundwater or to the sea, and thus to every Lebanese citizen, only if the latter hasn't yet been infected by the poisonous air he breathes, or by a simple handshake.


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