Lethal pollution afflicts industrial zones

The lethal effects of pollution on the inhabitants of industrial areas are obvious in a study conducted by Thessaloniki University researchers in Sindos. Studying the causes of death over the past 55 years, the team noted a huge increase in the number of deaths from thromboembolic disease (ischaemic or embolic vascular episodes, heart disease and pneumonic embolism), which is directly linked to the high levels of pollution in Thessaloniki’s industrial zone. Leap from 2.6 to 47.5 pct The most alarming statistic is that while thromboembolic disease accounted for just 2.6 percent of deaths in the 1950s, in the 2002-2004 period – by which time the industrial zone contained hundreds of factories – the figure had leapt to 47.5 percent. The research, which has been presented at medical conferences in Greece and abroad, was carried out by the Blood Donation Unit of Thessaloniki University’s first Internal Medicine Training Unit under the direction of associate professor of hematology Pantelis Makris. As Makris told Kathimerini, the areas of Sindos, Diavaton, Ionia and Kalohoriou were the focus of a new study, following a more general survey the team had conducted of more than 100,000 files from AHEPA Hospital, and which noted significant differences in the causes of death between eastern and western Thessaloniki. There was a dramatic increase in thromboembolic disease in the west, amounting to one third of the total number of deaths. This discrepancy was attributed to the presence of heavy industry, including chemical factories, its failure to comply with health-protection measures and the consequent increase in the pollution of the air and water. The researchers examined 5,603 death certificates from the area and certificates containing coroners’ conclusions, and divided them into three categories: deaths from thromboembolic disease, those from cancer and those from other causes. The record showed an increase per decade in deaths from thromboembolic disease and cancer, while deaths from other causes decreased. The most likely explanation, according to the report, is air pollution created by particles emitted into the atmosphere by factories. In other words, they note, one in two deaths in the industrial zone of Thessaloniki in recent years has been due to thromboembolic disease. «We would probably draw similar conclusions if research was done into the causes of death in other industrial zones in Greece,» said Makris, noting the need for inspections, the implementation of measures to protect the environment, and preventive medicine programs. Such programs could assess other factors – such as diet, lifestyle and profession – and how they too contribute to the increase in thromboembolic disease. «The study sounds a warning,» said Echedoru Mayor Giorgos Arvanitidis. Noting that cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death among urban and semi-urban populations in Greece, Arvanitidis said there should now be «a major epidemiological survey in western Thessaloniki that records all the factors – such as population changes over the past 15 years, social stratification and deindustrialization – in order to draw more definite conclusions.» Local residents and local government have long demanded the removal of Hellenic Petroleum from the area. Arvanitidis believes the area should start using natural gas, which would reduce emission of pollutants. Measurements in the Echedoru municipality show a similar level of pollutants in the air with those in downtown Thessaloniki.