Results of AUB air quality and waste burning study are extremely worrying

Source: Al Jazeera

On January 28, AUB released their study results on Toxic Emissions of Waste Burning. Between the period of October 2 and November 22 air samples were tested near waste burning sites. The air samples were then compared to previous measurements or to ones taken a week away from nearby burning incidents and after it had rained. The following is a summary of the results with some health related information.  It is important to note that these results are only from samples taken near areas where trash is being burnt and therefore do not represent all of Beirut and Mount Lebanon’s atmosphere.

Particulate Matter (PM10 and PM2.5)

  • PM10 exceeds World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines by 276%
  • PM25 exceeds WHO guidelines by 171%

Increase in particulate matter could cause respiratory and heart problems. It could be fatal for people with heart and lung diseases.


  • Metal markers including lead, cadmium, titanium, arsenic, and many others, had increased by 98% to 1448%

Heavy metal pollution can cause kidney and bone damage, developmental and neurobehavioural disorders, elevated blood pressure and potentially even lung cancer.

Organic Compounds

  • 16 toxic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (known as PAHs, in both gas and particle forms) more than doubled compared to the other samplings
  • Carcinogenic PAH, Benzo[a]pyrene, was 2.3 times more concentrated

Inhaling organic compounds can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, headache, loss of coordination, nausea and damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system.

Industrial Byproducts

  • 2754% higher than in previous measurements.

These chemicals have been known to cause respiratory and heart problems.

Exposure to this type of pollution translates into an increase in short term cancer risk from 1 to 18 persons per million. These results are extremely worrying and emphasize the severity of the waste crisis and its direct impact on public health. It highlights the urgency for addressing this problem in the short term and developing a strategy for the long term. In the meantime, the public security apparatus along with other government entities such as the Civil Defense and Ministry of Public Health should be diligent and do their utmost to prevent more of these incidents until the trash has been finally removed.


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