Russia: City Air Pollution Rising, Hits Health


City Air PollutionRising, Hits Health
The St. Petersburg Times
November 4, 2003

Air pollution in St. Petersburg is getting worse, becoming more dangerous to human health and the city, for the first time, entered the list of Russia’s cities with the most noxious air, according to the Main Voeyikov Geophysical Observatory, which monitors the nation’s air pollution.

“Despite the decline of industry in the city in the last 10 years, air pollution has increased by almost 50 percent,” Emma Bezuglaya, head of the air pollution analysis laboratory at the observatory, said Monday.

She said the dirtier air has contributed to an increase in heart, circulatory and respiratory diseases.

In the last five years the number of heart and vascular diseases among St. Petersburg adults has risen by 10 percent to 15 percent. The number of children born with congenital heart and vascular defects rose at the same rate as the city’s air became dirtier, she said.

And, in 2002, for which figures have only just been published, St. Petersburg was for the first time included in a priority list of Russian cities with the worst air pollution.

Thirty-five cities with the highest levels of air pollution are on the observatory’s priority list, while 130 cities also have air pollution levels ranging from high to very high.

In 2002, the concentrations of ammonia, benzapiren, nitrogen dioxide and formaldehyde in St. Petersburg’s air were twice the level considered safe, the observatory said.

In the city’s central district, the level of nitrogen dioxide was regularly 79 percent above the acceptable level.

Bezuglaya said that between 2001 and 2002 the concentration of suspended substances, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and benzapiren in the cities in the European part of Russia more than doubled. Maximum concentrations exceeded norms by four to eight times.

She said that increases were partly due to the numerous forest fires across the country last year.

But, according to Bezuglaya, rising vehicle use also played a big role.

“For instance, in the case of St. Petersburg, the deterioration of the air quality was significantly increased by the number of automobiles in the city increasing by four times,” Bezuglaya said.

She said cars contributed a lot to rising nitrogen dioxide levels.

“Unfortunately, cars and marshrutki [route taxis], are significantly dirtier than the city’s former ecologically cleaner trams and trolley-buses, the numbers of which have declined in the city for the last several years,” Bezuglaya said.

By Irina Titova


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