By Majd Othman


KUWAIT: A recent report indicated that Kuwait City ranked eighth globally and first in the Arab world, in the list of the most polluted cities, according to the American Air Quality Index (AQI), published by the Swiss company IQ Air, which measured the presence of five major pollutants — ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter.

The report showed that multiple reasons come together to contribute in Kuwait‘s air pollution, with the  oil industry being the main contributor —leading to the burning of fossil fuels and industrial practices such as extraction, drilling and fracking, storing and exporting, all causing pollution in the country, in addition to the subsequent fallout from these oil fires which causes damage to the upper ozone layer and  leads to climate change, creating more pollution related issues down the line.

The report also details that, with relatively high readings of pollution throughout the year, it is expected to create negative health consequences. Some adverse health effects that may arise as a result may be rapid aging or scarring of the lungs, with large amounts of chemical compounds as well as fine particles in the air; the increased presence of nitrogen dioxide which can cause irritation and damage to lung tissue and the presence of black carbon, which can cause scarring and reduced lung capacity as well as other problems, if it passes into the bloodstream.

It mentioned that the effects of pollution are felt not only in the diminished capacity and proper functioning of the lungs, but sufferers also become more susceptible to other respiratory problems such as pneumonia, bronchitis and emphysema as well as exacerbated forms of asthma, with other problems outside the respiratory system such as heart disease as well as arrhythmia, which makes people with pre-existing heart disease more likely to die prematurely.

In expectant mothers, the report added that if pregnant women are exposed to large amounts of pollution over long periods of time, there would be a significant rise in infant mortality rates and the chances of miscarriage will increase, along with cases of children born prematurely with low birth weight, in addition to the possibility of cognitive and physical defects.

Meanwhile, the Environment Public Authority of Kuwait (EPA) have announced that this report and its classifications of air quality standards in Kuwait have no basis in the country and have argued that the US air quality standards differ from the air quality standards in Kuwait, with each country having its own standards based on its national conditions.

On the other hand, the Green Line Environmental Group of Kuwait replied to the Environment Authority statement that pollutants in the air are pollutants due to dust in a report issued by Green Line Research and Studies Unit, explaining that the Kuwaiti society is exposed to pollutants such as fine particles of 2.5 PM, which can be dangerous and lead to the spread of diseases and cause death.

The Green Line also report stated that the effect of such dust particles depends on the concentration in the atmosphere and the duration of exposure. If the exposure period is short, it may cause health damages such as itching and redness of the eyes and skin, coughing and shortness of breath. But if exposed for a longer period of time, it may have serious effects such as cancer, chronic lung diseases, heart and blood diseases.