NEWS

Smoking threat in public spaces

The air in Greek bars and other closed public spaces can pose a health risk as it often contains pollution particles hundreds of times above the recommended safety level, a new book by scientists and health experts warns. Bars in Greece contain between 2,500 and 9,000 milligrams of PM1 pollution particles per cubic meter, compared to a recommended maximum level of 10 to 20 mg/m3, the book says. Many offices also contain a high level of PM1 particles (smaller and easier to inhale than the better-known PM2.5 and PM10). Tests showed the air in offices contained up to 450 mg/m3 of PM1, experts said. If the office is located near a main road, much of the pollution generated by the traffic outside will end up inside the building, they said. The results of these and other tests are analyzed in the book «Pollution and Air Quality inside Buildings,» which contains the findings of 14 scientists and five educational institutions. High rates of pollution in bars, offices and other closed public spaces can provoke allergies, asthma, cancer and heart disease, experts say. Spending four hours in a bar with bad ventilation – and lots of smokers – can be equal to smoking 500 cigarettes, they say. Many scientists believe that Greece has not done enough to reduce pollution in public places, as a growing number of European countries impose strict smoking bans. «Segregating smokers and non-smokers is usually pointless as atmospheric pollution particles move around,» said Athens University’s Matthaios Santamouris. In a related development, Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias pledged to reduce by 16.6 percent carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which contribute to global warming, between 2008 and 2012. The pledge followed pressure from the European Commission after Athens asked for the reduction to be limited to 8.9 percent. The Public Power Corporation (PPC) produces most of Greece’s CO2 gas emissions and is likely to face the most pressure to curb them.