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. Czech steel giant promises to improve air quality in polluted city

by Staff Writers
Prague (AFP) April 8, 2008
The Czech Republic's biggest steelmaker, ArcelorMittal Ostrava, pledged to improve air quality in the city, one of the most polluted in Central Europe, following a protest on Tuesday.

"The environment and security are two key areas which are of great importance for the whole ArcelorMittal group and are a priority for us in Ostrava," board chairman Sanjay Samaddar said in a statement.

Around 400 people protested in the centre of the country's third city against its alarming levels of air pollution. The Czech unit of the world's biggest steelmaker is held to be "the main polluter" by demonstrators.

"The level of damaging matter in the atmosphere started to fall in 1995 but has started to climb again since 2002 and often exceeds health limits several fold," local Green Party leader Vladislav Koval told AFP.

Levels of micro particulate matter, which can damage the lungs, stood at 64 microgrammes per cubic metre -- more than 50 percent higher than the EU limit -- in the Bartovice district of Ostrava which neighbours the steel plant, according to a report by the Czech Hydrometeorological Office.

Arsenic and cancer-causing benzopyrene also exceeded limits, it said.

On February 13, the annual quota of 35 days a year for pollution limits to be passed during a 12-month period by EU legislation was already reached.

In 2007, air pollution limits were exceeded on 216 days in the city, according to figures published by the demonstrators.

A recent study also showed that the number of children with breathing problems was 15 percent higher than in areas with normal air quality while the number of early deaths amongst the population was 20 percent higher.

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Russian mayor urges closure of own town: report
Moscow (AFP) April 8, 2008
A Russian mayor has taken the unusual step of calling for his own town to be shut down due to toxic weapons waste, a daily newspaper reported on Tuesday.

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