Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Will Russians die from what they breathe?

Russia is a huge industrial country known for its powerful facilities. The standard of living of many Russians improves every year, which leads to an increase in the number of cars on the roads. This in turn causes deterioration of the environmental situation. The Russians are breathing harmful air, which can lead to irreversible consequences.

The inspection of the Russian Prosecutor General's Office revealed that 53 percent of the urban population (approximately 55 million people) lives in areas with very high and high levels of air pollution. In the first six months of this year over 20,000 violations in this area have been revealed. As emphasized in a statement of the Prosecutor General, the industrial enterprises often do not install purifying equipment, and do not observe the regime of sanitary protection zones.

The dirtiest Russian city is Novorossiysk, where the level of air pollution index (API) is 36. It is followed by Bratsk, where the API is 28, Krasnoyarsk (23.8), Novokuznetsk (API of 22), and Magnitogorsk (21). Moscow was not included in the list of 100 dirtiest Russian cities. St. Petersburg is currently ranking 83rd with API a little under 7. The level of air pollution is considered to be high when API is 5-6, high - when the API is 7-13, and very high  in excess of API 13.

In the Russian Federation in 27 cities with a total population of over 16 million people a very high degree of air pollution has been recorded. The main polluting agents are benzopyrene, formaldehyde, particulate matter, and others. In 2012, total emissions of pollutants and toxic substances into the atmosphere were at 32.5 million tons, including 19.2 million tons from stationary sources (various businesses), and 13.3 million tons from mobile sources (vehicles).

The volume of waste amounted to 4.3 billion tons, which is 16.2 percent more than in 2010. The highest amount of waste is generated during mining operations is 88.7, of which 58.7 percent is from mining of energy resources.

In terms of pollution from vehicles the first place is occupied by Moscow, followed by Sverdlovsk, Rostov and Krasnodar regions and St. Petersburg. The highest level of pollution from various industrial facilities is in Krasnoyarsk, Kemerovo and Sverdlovsk region, Khanty-Mansi and Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Districts.

Two million people in the world die of air pollution each year. In Europe, annual air pollution causes deaths of 19,000 people, 15,000 of them are people with cardiovascular diseases. Such findings were made ​​by scientists from 12 European countries that participated in the study by Aphekom. They noted that in the Russian Federation, the level of air pollution mortality was much higher. In some regions of Russia air pollution levels exceed the accepted norm ten-fold.  

Poor environmental conditions increase the number of cases of asthma in children by 30 percent, worsen the situation with cardiovascular diseases, and lead to the development of lung and bronchial diseases. If in patients with asthma mortality rate can be contained by the current anti-inflammatory drugs and effective bronchodilators that quickly deal with asthma attacks, death rates due to cardiovascular diseases are still leading.

"Environmental pollution adversely affects children's health, weakening the immune system and leading to chronic respiratory and other diseases," said Igor Volkov, professor of children's diseases at MGMU named after Sechenov.

An increase in the number of allergy sufferers is associated with poor environmental conditions. "Clearly, air pollution may cause allergies in people who are predisposed to them, and substantially worsen them," said allergist and immunologist Irina Tokareva.

According to the Aphekom study, in Europe nearly half of the population, mostly people who live in the area 150 meters from roads with a capacity of over 10,000 vehicles per day, are exposed to a substantial risk. In Russia, in addition, the main sources of pollution are industrial plants, as well as nuclear and thermal power plants.

In urban areas the air is polluted by poorly utilized waste of utility companies, and in villages - fertilizers, pesticides, and contaminated agricultural run-off. "Auto gases, landfills, industrial facilities, burning landfills all pollute the atmosphere, filling the air with dioxins. Once in the human body, the toxins accumulate in it," said Elena Vovk, assistant professor of therapy department at MSMSU.

According to the World Health Organization, air pollution causes premature deaths of about two million people worldwide annually. Speaking of Russia, in the opinion of Professor Yuri Rahmanin, air pollution kills over 120,000 Russians over the age of 30. But this is only an estimate, and the exact number could be much higher.

Every year in Moscow polluted air kills about 3,500 residents. Such data was announced by Simon Avaliani with the Centre for Risk Assessment at the Russian Academy of Advanced Medical. Studies and Boris Revich, MD.

"We used a technique widely accepted in the world," said Boris Revitch. "We compared the annual concentrations of various pollutants contained in the air with the data of American Scientists on mortality due to inhalation of these substances.

As it turned out, Muscovites are harmed by carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and other substances contained in automobile exhaust. They are the main source of air pollution in Moscow (over 90 percent of the entire pollution level). Continuous inhalation of exhaust causes asthma and bronchitis. Almost all car owners are at risk. When a car is stuck in a traffic jam or is traveling very slowly, the concentration of nitrogen dioxide in the car can be 10 times the maximum permissible level. Air conditioning and closed windows do not help.

The risk group also includes residents of buildings located near the busiest roads."

"It is much more dangerous to live somewhere in the downtown Moscow, for example, on Tverskaya," said Boris Revitch. "On lower floors pollution level is higher because exhausts "climb" into the windows. The maximum concentration of emissions is on the ​​1st - 5th floors, while on the 15th floor it is twice as low, and on the 30th - ten times lower.  

Sulfur dioxide is no less dangerous. Its main source is the boilers that burn diesel fuel and fuel oil.

"Once in human body, the sulfur dioxide reduces the elasticity of vessel walls, which leads to the formation of plaque on them. Plaque in the blood vessels is a direct path to a heart attack that kills the majority of Muscovites," said Boris Revitch.

The problem must be solved at the state level. The Russian authorities have repeatedly stated that the issue of improving the environmental situation was one of the most important. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that the country was focused on a variety of environmental projects, in particular, the establishment of a system for monitoring the environment from space, the creation of sources of green (alternative) energy, waste management, transition of urban transport to cheap cars with electric motors, for example, on the basis of lithium-ion batteries and hybrid engines that do not pollute the air. These projects require significant funds, but the investments are already coming in.

Sergei Vasilenkov


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