What you see in the picture is not romantic mist, looming over Thessaloniki and creating a mystical atmosphere on the promenade during cold winter months. Smog filled with fine dust particles which are particularly hazardous to human health has been hanging over the largest city in northern Greece for several days.
Today, local authorities called on the residents of Thessaloniki to limit the movement of vehicles on Tuesday and Wednesday due to atmospheric pollution. The traffic police has taken measures to reduce traffic jams and to impose fines on owners of illegally parked cars. If the problem worsens, it is possible that Thessaloniki will follow the example of Athens and limit traffic in the city centre.
Atmospheric pollution, and in particular, the dust particles in the air, have increased significantly in recent days. As a first measure, city officials called on companies not to increase their production processes, municipalities to engage in cleaning the streets at night and state agencies to limit the movement of their cars. More frequent checks to detect open fires such as burning tyres are expected to be performed. The management of the port of Thessaloniki has prohibited smoke removal from ships for several days.
The measures were announced after a meeting, which involved representatives of the regional government, Thessaloniki and the surrounding municipalities and police authorities. Deputy District Governor Apostolos Tzitzikostas said that no measures have hitherto been taken despite the continuous increase of fine dust particles in the atmosphere. Initial estimates by meteorologists have indicated that the phenomenon will pass, but now, it is clear that the problem will continue until Thursday afternoon.
Replying to the question of possible additional measures, Apostolos Tzitzikostas said that if the average value of fine particles exceeds 170 micrograms per cubic metre, schools will be closed and traffic in the city centre will be restricted. He stated that the cause of the increased levels of atmospheric pollution is the phenomenon of temperature inversion, i.e. the inability of pollutants to escape from the atmosphere in the city. Due to lack of wind, the phenomenon has been observed in Thessaloniki in November each year since 1989, when stations measuring the atmospheric pollution entered into operation. This year, however, the phenomenon is stronger, because many households are using firewood. Participants at the meeting, however, stressed that it is not a threat to public health.
A similar situation with the air is found in the region of Kozani. According to the person in charge of the quality of the atmosphere at the Environment Centre, Vassilis Evangelopoulos, pollution is the result of the combination of the production activity of power producing plants, the burning of stubbles by farmers and the climatic conditions, which are determined by the lack of rain and wind for a long period of time.
The residents of Bulgaria have been also breathing air filled with hazardous fine dust particles for a week now, reported 24chasa.bg. Dust pollution began on November 15 and is still ongoing. Pollution in Sofia is nearly five times higher than normal levels. According to the Executive Environment Agency, the main cause of air pollution is the increased use of wood and coal for heating. The traffic in big cities is also contributing to part of the pollution.
According to medical sources, fine dust particles are very harmful and even dangerous to human health. They can cause damage to lung tissue, which they penetrate easily and then accumulate in the body. Particularly threatened by air pollution are children, the elderly and people with chronic lung disease, influenza, or asthma.