NEWS

Pollution enters the food chain

Pollutants from catalytically converted cars are already all around us in higher concentrations than abroad due to problems in changing and maintaining catalytic converters. Benzole concentrations in Attica, according to YPEHODE figures, are in the order of 7 milligrams per cubic meter, when the current rate and EU target is 10 mg/m3. As of 2010, this ceiling will be reduced to 5 mg/m3. Benzole is carcinogenic even in tiny quantities and the World Health Organization has not yet set a safety ceiling as it considers it to be non-existent. A car with a spent catalytic converter emits 10 times more benzole than a conventional one. In fact it can be more harmful than a car without a catalytic converter. It is not just the benzole that is a problem. Studies conducted by lectors at the Agriculture University Laboratory of Ecology and Environmental Protection (Antonia Riga-Karandeinou and Costas Saitanis) found substantial metal concentrations originating from catalytic converters in the soil and plants near Athenian avenues. These metals belong to the platinum family (platinum, palladium, rhodium, iridium, osmium and ruthenium) and are used in catalytic converters to filter the pollutants such as carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxide. Exhaust fumes, however, penetrate the surface of the catalytic converters releasing the metals into the atmosphere. They can be broken down with the help of air and water. Even acid rain containing these elements has been observed. How harmful these pollutants are is not yet known as they have only appeared recently but according to several scientific publications they can pass into the food chain and accumulate in fatty tissue. «The greater the use and wear and tear of catalytic converters, the greater the spread of these metals,» noted Saitanis.