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EPA rebukes fears over dangerous air quality

KUWAIT: The quality of Kuwait’s air has become a topic of concern in recent days, especially as humidity has risen and air quality indexes have signaled the air entering an ‘unhealthy’ state. To clarify the matter, Kuwait Times visited the Environment Public Authority to learn more about what the air index means, how it relates to pollution, air quality and to warnings from local, regional and international environmental groups.

According to an official from the Environment Public Authority (EPA) who asked that his name not be published, the air index monitor utilized by the US Embassy in Bayan is a relevant air quality monitor (AQM) – in other words, the index is accurate. According to the US embassy in Kuwait, the condition observed at October 14, 2019 at 3:00pm at the Air Quality Index (AQI) was 159 which is an unhealthy PM 2.5. The message stated that everyone may begin to experience health effects when AQI values are between 151 and 200.

However, accurate doesn’t necessarily equal dangerous, the official notes. “In fact there is a difference between the danger limit of the PM2.5 between Kuwait and the United States or Europe. The US standard measures were based on a research conducted in the States, thus the sources there differ from the ones in Kuwait due to the completely different environment.

Here, over 54 percent of the PM are from natural sources coming from the desert [as in dust, sand, etc.] While there, it’s all from artificial pollution which means higher risk of containing carcinogenic atoms that will cause health risks if inhaled,” the official explained.

A local environmental protection group warned that air quality could pose a danger, even potentially carcinogenic in nature. “These measures are unhealthy but not dangerous as announced by some unofficial environmental institutions in Kuwait,” the EPA official told the Kuwait Times yesterday. The Environment Public Authority (EPA) is the official institution in charge of measuring pollution in Kuwait.

Measuring air quality in Kuwait is based on two methods; one has a longer procedure by taking samples from the machine that includes different filters and examining the taken samples in a laboratory. “This procedure takes a whole day to get the results. Then we also have monitors with immediate readings such as the one at the US embassy,” noted the official.

There are other European measuring machines that are available in three institutions in Kuwait in which the measures of AirVisual.com based its ranking of Kuwait on the World AQI ranking. “This machine is placed indoors as it would melt outside in Kuwait’s heat. Also the high values on air quality are outdoor and not indoor, while it shows the indoor values around 50 which is clean. And due to the hot weather conditions, people here don’t spend much time outdoors and even don’t open windows much, so they are not really exposed to the high values of air pollution,” he explained.

EPA has 15 stations in different areas of Kuwait. “We are monitoring the air quality all the time, so if there was a serious danger to people’s health, we would definitely inform them to take precautions or to stay at home and so on,” concluded the official.

By Nawara Fattahova

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