Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Earth Science News .

Bulgaria chokes on air pollution fuelled by poverty
by Staff Writers
Pernik, Bulgaria (AFP) Feb 22, 2014

The smokestacks of Kremikovtzi steel mill on Sofia's outskirts may have shut down years ago, but ancient cars ensure that Bulgaria's capital is still the most polluted in Europe.

When the steel plant went bankrupt in 2008, it did little to improve the thick smog that still hangs over Sofia.

Experts say old cars and chronic traffic jams are to blame, made worse by the capital's location in a lowland surrounded by mountains.

Out of the 250,000 cars bought in 2013, only 20,000 were new, says Lyubomir Dorosiev, head of a used car dealer association.

"We have become Europe's vehicle cemetery since car catalytic converters are obligatory in developed countries.

"The authorities do not encourage the purchase of new cars under the pretext that they care about the poor," said Krastyo Peev, a car technician in Sofia.

A recent study by the European Environment Agency (EAA) found that Bulgaria, the EU's poorest nation, has four of the five most polluted cities in the bloc. The exception is the Polish city of Krakow at number three.

The top spot went to Pernik, an industrial city of 80,000 people around 30 kilometers (19 miles) southwest of Sofia.

"It's suffocating," moaned grocer Kalina Hristova. "Especially on winter evenings as most people burn coal but also tyres and plastic bottles" for heating, the 32-year-old said.

Pernik breached EU safety limits for air pollution for half of the year, against a target of 35 days.

Pollution is measured by the concentration of tiny droplets from smokestacks, vehicle tailpipes and other pollutants -- known as particulate matter.

That compares with just 29 days for Belgium and 15 for Paris, the study showed, although it was still far below the off-the-chart levels in some Asian cities like Beijing and New Delhi.

Sofia itself ranked 11th on the EAA chart, winning the prize as the most polluted capital in Europe-- far ahead of Bucharest, ranked 57th, and Ljubljana, at 75th.

- 'We poison the air ourselves' -

The culprit for more than half of this small Black Sea nation's air pollution -- 58 percent -- is smoke emanating from home stoves, according to Bulgaria's environment protection agency.

And grinding poverty -- especially in the smaller towns -- has driven up the share of people burning wood, coal and all kinds of waste to ward off the chilly east Balkan winters.

In the northern town of Vratsa, many have given up more expensive central heating as they can no longer afford it.

A mere 250 families have switched to central heating with gas, as most could not pay for the costly equipment, gas network supervisor Dimitar Dimitrov explained.

"We stopped the central heating in our apartment and burn wood that we keep on the balcony," said retired teacher Evdokia Slavova.

The chemical plant that used to poison Vratsa's air was shut after the fall of communism, plunging the town into poverty and unemployment.

"Now we poison the air ourselves," Slavova said.

Air pollution aggravates cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and has disastrous effects on the nervous and reproductive system that can lead to cancer and early death, the EEA agency warned.

The use of wood and coal for heating was however only part of the problem, experts said, pointing a finger at the fact that 43 percent of the electricity in the country comes from thermal power plants.

According to Greenpeace Bulgaria, dust particles and sulphur dioxide emitted from outdated thermal plants are responsible for 2,000 early deaths every year.

Bulgaria has the highest concentrations of carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide from the industry and automobile traffic, said Ivaylo Popov from the non-governmental organisation For the Earth.


Related Links
Our Polluted World and Cleaning It Up

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

New Bedford Harbor pollution prompts PCB-resistance in Atlantic killifish
Cape Cod MA (SPX) Feb 19, 2014
For four decades, waste from nearby manufacturing plants flowed into the waters of New Bedford Harbor-an 18,000-acre estuary and busy seaport. The harbor, which is contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and heavy metals, is one of the EPA's largest Superfund cleanup sites. It's also the site of an evolutionary puzzle that researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and ... read more

100-tonne radioactive water leak at Fukushima: TEPCO

Post-tsunami deaths outnumber disaster toll in one Japan area

Police to investigate death of Manus asylum detainee

Outsmarting nature during disasters

How to catch a satellite

Using Holograms to Improve Electronic Devices

Google shows prototype phone that creates 3-D maps of its surroundings

An essential step toward printing living tissues

Indonesia announces world's biggest manta ray sanctuary

Australian inquiry finds reef board mining conflict 'unfounded'

Deep ocean needs policy, stewardship where it never existed

Laos dam plan threatens existence of rare dolphin: WWF

Norway plays down conflict risk in the Arctic

Increase in Arctic Cyclones is Linked to Climate Change

Study predicts Antarctic ice melting will endure

Arctic biodiversity under serious threat from climate change according to new report

French organic winemaker in court for shunning pesticides

Nitrogen-tracking tools for better crops and less pollution

Agricultural productivity loss as a result of soil and crop damage from flooding

BGU Researchers Reveal that Organic Agriculture Can Pollute Groundwater

Volcanoes helped offset man-made warming

Mount Hood study suggests volcano eruptibility is rare

Up to 9,000 people threatened by Mozambique flooding

British insurers called in for floods talks

Outgoing CEO says S.Africa's Naspers to push online business

China-Africa trade surpassed $200 billion in 2013: Xi

The new Africa -- green shoots in biosciences

EU mulls cost and spillover risks of turmoil in Africa

Baylor Sheds New Light on the Habitat of Early Apes

Oldest fortified settlement in North America discovered in Georgia

What makes memories last?

Thinking it through: Scientists seek to unlock mysteries of the brain

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.