“Worrying results.” A study reveals a danger poisoning the city of Beirut “Worrying results.” A study reveals a danger poisoning the city of Beirut

“Worrying results.” A study reveals a danger poisoning the city of Beirut

“Worrying results.” A study reveals a danger poisoning the city of Beirut

Smog hangs over the city of Beirut most days. It is a brown cloud that darkens the city's skyline, which poses a major health threat to the population and raises cancer cases to 30%.

According to a report published by the British newspaper The Guardian, an estimated 8,000 diesel generators have been operating Lebanese cities since 2019. These generators can be heard, smelled, and seen in the streets. But its worst effect is the air that city residents are forced to breathe.

New research, set to be published by scientists at the American University of Beirut (AUB), finds that the Lebanese capital's overreliance on diesel generators in the past five years has directly doubled the risk of cancer.

Oncologists say rates of positive diagnoses are rising. “The results are worrying,” explains Najat Saliba, an atmospheric chemist and study leader.

This problem primarily affects Beirut, especially in densely populated areas such as Al-Maqasid.

Pollution levels are usually caused by fine particles known as PM2.5, reaching 60 micrograms per cubic metre, according to The Guardian.

This amount is four times higher than the limit recommended by the World Health Organization, which is 15 micrograms/m3, which also confirms that people should not be exposed to this level for no more than three to four days a year.

The situation appears to have become critical after the catastrophic explosion that occurred in August 2020, which further weakened the country.

The economic collapse in Lebanon led to a near collapse in the government power network, causing an increase in the use of diesel generators. This, combined with other factors, has created a vicious cycle in which generators continue to pollute the air, exacerbating health problems, including cancer.

Generators release carcinogenic pollutants into the atmosphere, significantly increasing the risk of cancer among residents.

According to measurements from the American University of Beirut, cancer-causing pollutants have essentially doubled in three areas of the capital.

Saliba stated that the evaluation indicates that the risk of cancer has increased by approximately 50%.

Cancer risk based on carcinogens

According to the Guardian newspaper, the American University of Beirut scientists say in their research paper: “We calculate the risk of cancer based on the carcinogens emitted by diesel generators, some of which are classified as Class 1A carcinogens.”

Category 1A (formerly Cat 1) are substances known to cause cancer in humans based largely on human evidence.

Oncology specialists in Beirut have unofficially noted a significant rise in cancer rates, indicating an approximate rise of 30% each year since 2020.

Moreover, they noticed a common trend: patients became younger while their tumors became more aggressive. However, this data has not been verified.

Saliba says the country is suffering from "a big vicious cycle. We are a very poor country now, so we keep asking for all this money."

Although international donors have contributed billions of dollars to start improved infrastructure projects, the underlying problems have not yet been addressed.

Dr. Fadlo Khuri, president of the American University of Beirut and an oncologist specializing in lung and neck cancer, indicated in an interview with the Guardian newspaper that the American University of Beirut “conducted measurements and mathematical models, and found that 40% of people’s daily exposure to airborne carcinogens in Lebanon is "It comes from one source: diesel generators, and you won't see the impact on lung, neck and bladder cancer rates for years because these are diseases that take years of chronic exposure."


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