Residents of North Macedonia’s capital city of Skopje are pleading with the government to do more to improve air quality in the city.
Skopje, according to the Guardian, is home to three of the most polluted districts on the continent, and living there is becoming increasingly difficult.
Toxic smog from industry and dirty fuel pollution lingers in Skopje because of how the city has been developed.
Set among a hilly and mountainous landscape, the warm air from factories and vehicles rises but gets trapped by the cooler air that formulates around the surrounding peaks. This is especially problematic in winter when pollution from wood-burning stoves is added to the mix.
Why is this so concerning?
The Guardian’s analysis detailed how particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns, also known as PM2.5, is particularly prevalent in Skopje. These tiny particles can cause a number of health issues since they are small enough to be absorbed by the blood through the lungs, leading to potential organ problems.
According to the California Air Resources Board, even short-term exposure to PM2.5 particles can lead to premature mortality and heart and lung problems.
Citing data from the World Health Organization, CARB said, “PM2.5 is associated with the greatest proportion of adverse health effects related to air pollution.”
A 2018 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, summarized in the Guardian, noted residents in Skopje were more likely to die two or three years earlier than expected because of the high pollution levels.
What impact could cutting pollution have?
Further findings from the study revealed that cutting PM2.5 pollution to the EU’s recommended levels could avoid one of five hospital visits related to heart or lung problems.
One of the ways to do so would be to improve the heat efficiency of homes in the city. But with a substantial population of poor residents in Skopje, many turn to poor-quality fuel or burning trash to heat their homes when temperatures plummet, which makes the smoke pollution much worse.
Citizens have tried to appeal to the government by using an app to show air quality data, but so far, no breakthrough has been made with officials.
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