Archive for the “Blog” Category

We only have Tier 1 and Tier 2 generators in Lebanon that are providing electricity to supplement the market. These are causing severe air pollution and particulate pollution that cause so many different health problems ranging from asthma to cancer to  various respiratory problems. We urgently need to solve the electricity problem in Lebanon.

Information on pollution of Tier 1 and Tier 2 Generators:

Where the USA is now:

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Lebanon is suffering from a serious crisis of E. Coli and listeria contamination thanks to unhygienic conditions and polluted waterways.

Following the national uproar in Lebanon when large amounts of rotten meat and dairy were found at some of Beirut’s top restaurants and supermarkets, researchers at the American University of Beirut (AUB) carried out a study on levels of bacterial contamination in Lebanon’s meat and dairy products. The lead researcher and environmentalist Rabih Kamleh explains how the findings reveal worrying levels of harmful pathogenic microorganisms such as Salmonella , Listeria and Escherichia Coli in Lebanese food. As far as dangers go, cheese “smells” the worst. 

In fact, the study indicates bacterial levels that are much higher than accepted standards set by the Food Standards Agency in the United Kingdom. For example, 66 percent of cheese samples in the study contained E. Coli and 26.6% of the cheese samples contained Listeria.

The second worrying discovery is that these pathogens are building resistance to the most frequently prescribed antibiotics .

AUB microbiologist Steve Harakeh published a study showing that 100% of fast food meat samples in Lebanon had bacteria resistant to the common antibiotics oxacilllin and clindamycin, and 42% were resistant to trimethroprim-sulfamethoxazole.

Another study (links to PDF) evaluated the presence of Yersinia enterocolitica in three dairy based foods which include Kishk, Shankleesh and Baladi cheese and tested their susceptibilities to commonly used antimicrobial agents such as chloramphenicol, trimethoprim/ sulfamethoxazole, gentamicin, ciprofloxacin , nalidixic acid, kanamycin and streptomycin.

The data showed surprising levels of resistance of Y. entercolitica – the antimicrobial resistance levels exceeded by far all the levels reported elsewhere.

One of the main reasons for this is unhygienic processing and storing practices with insufficient regulation . But Lebanon’s food supply is also highly contaminated due to heavy chemical and biological pollution in its water systems.

For example the Litani River, Lebanon’s longest river which is used to irrigate the Bekaa valley, is heavily polluted with sewage, household, medical, agricultural and industrial waste.

The smell and pollution have gotten so bad that many are being forced to pack up and leave. Riad Qaraawi, professor of microbiology in the faculty of medicine at the Lebanese University in the Bekaa, reports high levels of chemical and bacterial contamination in the river that spread to agricultural products.

His research also shows an increase in typhoid, hepatitis and nitrates in the bodies of those who live near the waterway. And these areas also have high cancer rates because of the carcinogen mercury which is building up at the bottom of the river and spreading to groundwater reserves.

Although several donor countries have been contributing part of the funds to construct water refineries and sewage treatment plants, several plants have not been completed.

The $150 million plan to build sewage and water refinement plans – which included the Environment Ministry, international organizations and the CDR – is 70 percent complete, but the project has not been concluded because the government has not yet contributed the share it pledged.

The result is a considerable number of half completed water treatment systems in Lebanon which disguise the fact that, in fact, several liters of untreated waste are being dumped directly into rivers andseas. Shockingly there is no law obliging companies to build their own plants to treat waste.

Water is at the base of any type of consumption or production process, especially for food supplies. If this source is highly contaminated Lebanon risks a severe public health hazard, as the food supply now becomes a potential vehicle for the transmission of many resistant bacterial pathogens .

Image of contaminated food from Shutterstock

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Air pollution threatens health in Beirut

Bibi-Aisha Wadvalla

A graph showing the average distribution of nitrogen dioxide over Beirut. Areas in brown have the highest values.Saint Joseph University

About 93% of Beirut’s population is exposed to high levels of air pollution, according to a study by researchers at the American University of Beirut (AUB). Air pollution is a major environmental risk factor for poor health and causes about 2 million premature deaths worldwide each year.

The researchers presented the findings of a two-year study on air pollution at a seminar at AUB on 6 May. The study was carried out by the AUB and Saint Joseph University (USJ) in Beirut, in collaboration with the National Council for Scientific Research (CNRS). It involved collecting samples of air from various regions in Beirut between 2008 and 2010.

In 2010, across the city, the average concentration of nitrogen dioxide, a harmful air pollutant, was 58 micrograms per cubic metre of air. This exceeds the maximum average concentration recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO): 40 micrograms per cubic metre.

Nitrogen dioxide is produced by burning fossil fuels. Most of the nitrogen dioxide in cities is released from motor vehicles. Each car emits 1.6 tonnes of nitrogen dioxide per year. To offset the emissions from a single vehicle, at least 160 two-year-old trees would need to be planted each year. Lebanon has a large number of cars on its streets — the same number per capita as Japan, despite Japan covering an area that is roughly 36 times larger.

“In Beirut, as in many other overpopulated capitals, traffic is the main source of air pollution,” said Najat Saliba, a chemist at AUB who led the study.

Saliba proposed imposing staggered working hours and encouraging car pooling and bicycle use to ease the traffic on the streets of Beirut. She also suggested promoting public transport and building electric train lines.

Such strategies have been successful elsewhere. Istanbul, one of the most polluted cities in the world in the 1980s, managed to improve air quality by improving its public transportation network and installing an electric tram system.

According to the researchers’ findings, the average amount of airborne particulate matter, which in Beirut is created by dusty streets, wear and tear on tyres and incomplete combustion of fuel, is at least double that recommended in the WHO guidelines.

Breathing in large amounts of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter increases the likelihood of respiratory problems. These pollutants can inflame the lining of the lungs and reduce immunity to lung infections. Pulmonologist Marie-Louise Coussa-Koniski, from Rizk Hospital in Beirut, warned that “the number of cases of asthma, rhino-sinusitis and interstitial lung disease in Lebanon has been rising significantly over the past decade”. And the overall prevalence of asthma in Lebanon is at least 50% higher than that in Europe or the United States.

Such heavy pollution affects the cost of public health care. “The country could gain up to $16 million from lost work days and save up to $3.2 million in hospital visits annually if it would reduce its particulate matter by only 10 micrograms per cubic metre,” said Jad Chaaban, an economist in AUB’s Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences.

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An interesting documentary about the current situation in Lebanon that touches on many environmental issues.

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Lebanon is a member of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). But has not signed or ratified the Koyoto Protocol.

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