From Tue Jun 15 10:15:08 2004
Date: Mon, 7 Jun 2004 00:08:10 -0500 (CDT)
From: Albanians-Today News and Information <>
Subject: [Albanians-Today] Albania at risk of disaster from heightened
Article: 181635
To: undisclosed-recipients: ;

Albanians-Today News and Information:

Albania at risk of disaster from heightened pollution levels

Agence France presse, Tuesday 25 May 2004, 1:09 PM ET

TIRANA (AFP)—Albania is facing a humanitarian catastrophe due to growing pollution caused by poisonous gases that are 10 times above the tolerance level set by the World Health Organizations (WHO), according to experts in the country.

“We are concerned as we get new information every day about growing numbers of people suffering from cancer, cardiovascular and pneumonia diseases due to various poisonous gases and carbon dioxide,” Environment Minister Ethem Ruka told AFP.

Some 50,000 tons of air bubbles and carbon dioxide fall on the capital Tirana every year, or 48 kilogrammes (105 pounds) of damaging particles per inhabitant, data presented by the National Institute for Environment showed.

That is why Tirana is estimated to be one of the most polluted cities in the world, behind New Delhi and Beijing, but way ahead of Athens, Budapest, Bucharest or Madrid.

“Some 90 percent out of 100,000 vehicles in the Albanian capital are too old, 70 percent use diesel and 30 percent petrol, but mostly petrol with lead and a huge quantity of sulfur, banned in the European Union (news— web sites) countries,” Ruka said.

“Lead emissions could provoke celebral weakness, especially among children, but could also cause huge genetic problems in the future,” an expert from the Public Health Institute, Agron Deliu, told AFP.

Although no reliable data exists, experts said that deaths due to illnesses caused by pollution have increased by 20 percent in Tirana in the past two years in the former communist country of 3.5 million people.

According to the Institute for Statistics, respiratory system diseases came third on the list of causes of death last year.

Albanian experts have also registered an increased number of babies born with deformities, particularly in the region of Elbasan, some 60 kilometers (36 miles) west of Tirana, where the daily pollution level is 15 times above acceptable levels, particularly due to sulfur gas.

The same phenomena were registered among the animals born in this region. There have been reported cases of four-legged roosters and two-headed calves or rabbits in the region of Elbasan, a centre of steel production with no regular pollution control.

“In Elbasan, numerous cement- and metal-producing factories emit 40,000 tons of dust per year,” said Ilir Quiriazi, an environment ministry expert.

Quiriazi has threatened to close down all factories that fail to take anti-pollution measures.

Experts also warned that throughout Albania, tens of thousands of tons of chemical and toxic waste could be found abandoned in the ruins of the communist-era factories.

The danger is even higher nowadays as many families, fleeing poor mountain regions, camp or build their temporary huts near these former production centers.

Ruka said a “cancerous substance” had been found in some ground water in the area, “due to left-over pesticides.”

The minister called on the international institutions to help Albania to “prevent a humanitarian catastrophe,” estimating that “at least a billion dollars” were needed to reduce pollution in Albania.