The nation’s health continues to be ignored – FAA

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It is commendable that Malta has made the seemingly impossible undertaking to meet the EU legally-binding limits on air pollutants by next year, through increased use of the CCGT plant, combustion optimisation and modification of boilers at the Delimara generation plant, however this still ignores the more immediate and direct threat to peoples’ health from street level traffic pollution.

While the deleterious effects of nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides are not to be ignored, it must be remembered that Malta is highly urbanised and has a high traffic density. The damaging effects of severe street level pollution on our health from this source is equally, if not more, important. This applies especially to the excessively high particulate concentrations revealed by air quality monitoring.

The health effects of nitrogen and sulphur oxides are mostly on the respiratory system; these are in themselves of a serious nature. But the effects of particulates are more malignant because these are responsible for permanent harm through delayed long-term effects which are being increasingly recognised by the World Health Organisation, Medical Associations and Health Authorities world-wide. The now well-documented serious long term effects of exposure to particulates include a higher incidence of (lung) cancer, decreased life span and stunted lung development in growing children. The continuing indifference of both our Environmental and Health Authorities to the serious health threats from dense and unregulated traffic is nothing short of a national scandal. This lack of political will to eradicate this significant threat to the Nation’s health is incomprehensible.

Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar (FAA) reiterates that while Malta has pledged to come into line with emissions limits next year through changes in our power stations, the equally, if not more pressing matter of pollution in our streets to which so many are exposed, is not being addressed at all. In particular, the abundant and highly visible source of particulate emissions from buses, heavy goods vehicles and many diesel-driven private cars continues regardless. Studies have shown that if a vehicle belches black smoke then it is a source of serious pollution. The owners of such vehicles are contravening regulations 107 and 195 of the 1994 Motor Vehicles Regulations and yet no visible action is being taken against them by police or wardens.

As a consequence of official inaction, the number of vehicles emitting dense black smoke is once again on the increase and people have understandably lost faith in the discredited SMS reporting system.

FAA has launched a web petition against this illegal traffic pollution. The public is urged to sign the petition which demands that Police and Traffic Wardens enforce the law by direct action against the owners of visibly polluting vehicles. The petition can be signed on:

http://www.petitiononline.com/FAA2009/petition.html

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