Study to spot health risks by environmental factors

ABU DHABI - The Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) and the University of North Carolina in the United States are jointly conducting a research project on indoor and outdoor pollution to identify the health risks posed by environmental factors.


Silvia Radan

Published: Sun 15 Jun 2008, 1:59 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 6:29 PM

The project, launched last week, is aimed at developing a UAE strategy for environmental health. The entire research work would be completed in 15 months.

The project would be supported by a host of government organisations, including the Abu Dhabi Health Authority, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Environment and Water, Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority, Dubai Health Authority and WHO.

"A quarter of diseases in the world are caused by environmental factors," stated EAD Secretary-General Majid Al Mansouri.

"We are facing serious issues that require serious mitigation strategies. Emissions of pollutants into the air are affecting our lungs. Waste discharges are polluting our coastal waters. Hazardous wastes and agricultural chemicals are destroying our groundwater," stressed Al Mansouri.

Apart from air pollution, the research will also concentrate on issues such as sewage, often dumped into the sea, which contains heavy metals that end up affecting the marine life and, ultimately, the people who consume seafood.

According to Dr. M. Z. Ali Khan, Director of World Health Organisation's Gulf Regional Centre for Environmental Health Activities, every home, office, car or any other indoor space in the UAE has an air-conditioning system that is potentially harmful to human health.

He said air-conditioners recycle air over and over again and often air bacteria exists inside them, affecting those breathing this recycled air.

"There is, in fact, a lot of indoor air pollution, not only from air-conditioners but also from chemicals released by ambient air sprays or pest control sprays and powder, not to mention smoking," Dr. Khan pointed out.

All these factors trigger various ailments, specially respiratory ones. "We did, for example, a study in Kuwait, where the majority of people we interviewed complained of feeling dizzy or having headaches while indoors, but they felt okay when they went to the mountains," he pointed out.

"We don't know how many and at what degree these environmental factors are affecting the human health, so the idea of this strategy is to study everything step by step to create a database," added Dr. Khan.

"We are already working on developing a much better air-conditioning system, which will be fixed on the floor and will be based on water cooling," Al Mansouri told Khaleej Times.

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