Ozone alert for Greece

BRUSSELS – Greece has the heaviest exposure to ozone in the European Union, according to a report released this week by the EU, which has recorded the haphazard expansion of the ozone hole over Europe. The findings of the report indicate that in 1999 – the last year for which the EU has complete data for all of its member countries – Greeks residing in urban areas of the country, chiefly in Athens, were exposed to ozone concentration rates in excess of the highest permitted limited for 94 days, or a period of three months. Moreover, the data show that in the second half of the 1990s the exposure to ozone concentration increased significantly, the worst years being 1996 with 84 days and 1999 with 94. The only other EU country whose record comes close to that of Greece is neighboring Italy, where EU records show that in 1999 inhabitants were exposed to harmful ozone concentrations for a total of 83 days. Spain, on the other hand, has managed in recent years to improve its air pollution record, and although it rated third place in the EU study, there were only 25 days in 1999 during which residents of Spain received harmful exposure. Of the total of six pollutant agents identified by the Kyoto Agreement as responsible for the creation of the global warming effect, carbon dioxide – which in Greece saw a 17-percent increase between 1993 and 1999, the fourth highest in EU after Spain, Portugal and Ireland – is deemed to be one of the chief air pollutants. Overall, from 1990 – when the EU started keeping complete records of air pollution – to 1999 there was a slight decrease in global warming gas emissions in the 15 EU member countries, which became even more pronounced in most countries after 1996. In contrast, the data is more encouraging in connection with the exposure of the Greek population to airborne particles, for which the EU report notes a substantial decrease for the entire span of the last decade. Specifically, from 116 days in 1993 during which Greeks were exposed to higher concentrations of airborne particles, in 1994 they were reduced to 81, in 1995 to 47, and to 28 during 1997, the last year for which the EU has official records.