Take a deep breath - UAE air is safe, say experts

Take a deep breath - UAE air is safe, say experts
Clear weather and blue sky visible in Dubai on Thursday at Al Mamzar beach. Photo by Shihab

Dubai - Air pollutants are within permissible limits, at most you're breathing suspended sand.


Nivriti Butalia

Published: Sun 13 Dec 2015, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Mon 14 Dec 2015, 12:03 PM

It is official: The air in the UAE is fit to breathe. As per the World Health Organisation guidelines from earlier this year, we're in the green zone. The Particulate Matter (PM) level here is 2.5.
Ivano Iannelli, CEO of the Dubai Carbon, told Khaleej Times: "Dubai doesn't suffer from air pollution like some of the other metropolises do.
"I have seen the efforts (the) Dubai Municipality makes in monitoring data. And the dust we get here is more sand than harmful chemicals."

DID YOU KNOWIn 2012 around 7 million people died - one in eight of total global deaths - as a result of air pollution exposure.
Dubai is no Beijing or New Delhi. Iannelli said: "There are very high standards of quality and monitoring. And the quality itself is relatively good - no exhaust fumes."
At the most, he said, we end up inhaling suspended sand, from the desert winds, and those are vastly preferable to chemical emissions.
Reem Deeb, sustainability manager, American University of Sharjah, said industrialised areas in the UAE are usually much worse.
She said: "The ambient air quality index is based mainly on six criteria pollutants (ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and lead) ... PM consists of a mixture of extremely small particles. The smaller the size of these particles, the higher is their health implications.
Breathing sand is preferable to the deadly gassy cocktail Beijing, Delhi and other metropolises are inhaling, Deeb said. "The nature of the UAE is arid and sandy ... (but that) does not mean that the air quality is poor since sand is a natural component found in nature and not generated through combustion."
The WHO report for the Eastern Mediterranean (Regional Strategy for Health and Environment 2014-2019) said: "UAE has a very low mortality resulting from environmental consequences such as air pollution compared to other countries in the region."
Pollution kills
The report said that world over, deaths due to poor quality air are greater than the deaths due to AIDS, diabetes and road accidents - combined.
World over, in 2012, nearly 4.3 million deaths were caused by poor indoor air quality (IAQ). Air Quality Index (AQI) and Index of PM are the two main yardsticks of clean air.
Masdar Institute of Science and Technology is working with the environment ministry to study the relationship between fine particles and also to monitor the air quality via satellite.
The Ministry of Environment and Water is keeping a watch on things. They've developed systems to evaluate the environmental impact of certain projects. The UAE Cabinet has taken decisions to regulate crusher and quarrying operations; and cement and asbestos production - the so called 'activities of special nature which affect air quality'.

How development affects air quality
The UAE's air quality is exposed to development factors such as the increase in the number of industrial facilities, rise in energy and water consumption, growth in the number of vehicles, and population - all of which take a toll on the quality of air.
And in the UAE, constant air-conditioning consumes over 51 per cent of a building's annual electricity consumption.
Switching off air conditioners isn't the way to go either, as heat with humidity is the perfect breeding ground for mould, B. Surendar, editorial director and associate publisher, CPI Industry, told Khaleej Times. And mould causes breathing problems.
While walking across covered parking lots (as in malls), cover your faces with a handkerchief, advised Surendar. Those fumes are deadly.
Exhaust from cars and other vehicles are the second biggest contributor to air emissions in the UAE, followed by manufacturing industries. Measures are being undertaken by the authorities concerned to reduce emissions and increase the air quality. Sandstorms native to the region don't help the air quality. Nor do minerals emitted naturally from coastal areas.

Reem Deeb
Reem Deeb

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