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And, yes, I DO take it personally: Breathing the air in Kabul is a killer
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Friday, January 16, 2009

Breathing the air in Kabul is a killer


the two times i've been in kabul, once for 2 1/2 months in spring 2008 and then again this past november, i was appalled at the level of pollution... quite honestly, i don't know how the afghans manage... the folks who are out walking or bicycling are the most vulnerable, and many of them try to cope by wrapping their noses and mouths with scarves, handkerchiefs or face masks... it's bad... REALLY bad... upper respiratory problems are epidemic and i'm sure the mortality rate for the infirm and elderly is high... with all the horrors those poor people have to deal with, severe air pollution shouldn't have to be one of them...

Air pollution in the Afghan capital of Kabul is so serious that President Hamid Karzai has declared a state of emergency.

Many residents burn plastic and tires for warmth. Those lucky enough to own a car use leaded fuel. Plus, thousands of gas-burning generators in shops and homes across the city provide power that the government can't.

Experts say Kabul is rapidly becoming one of the world's worst cities for air pollution, and nowhere is it more polluted than in a neighborhood near the presidential compound.

Here, the rancid air casts a yellow haze. Pedestrians hurry past, pressing scarves to their faces.

Several American Humvees roll past Mahboobullah Bakhtiari, who is setting up a cylindrical device. He works for Afghanistan's National Environmental Protection Agency and is here to measure just how bad the air is.

Bakhtiari places white filters in the monitor. He says it will take less than a day for those filters to turn black.

check these hair-raising stats...
According to Afghanistan's National Environmental Protection Agency, the level of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) was 52 ppm (parts per million) on an average day in Kabul in 2008. The U.S. EPA national air quality standard is .053 ppm.

The level of sulfur dioxide (SO2) was 37 ppm on an average day in Kabul in 2008. The U.S. EPA national air quality standard is .030 ppm.

According to the U.S. EPA, exposure to NO2, SO2 and other particulate matter negatively affects the respiratory system, damages lung tissue, and can cause cancer and premature death. The elderly, children and people with chronic lung disease, influenza or asthma tend to be especially sensitive to the effects of particulate matter.

what are they going to do...? what CAN they do...?

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