Pollution cloud hangs over Cairo

The “black cloud” -- a mass of polluted air that hangs over Cairo from October to November -- is less severe this year, but efforts to reduce the pollution that leads to the phenomenon should continue if a health disaster is to be avoided, Ahmed Abul Sa'oud, undersecretary at Egypt’s environment ministry, told the United Nations-affiliated humanitarian-news agency IRIN.


“Last year, the cloud appeared for 20 hours, compared with more than 100 hours in 1999,” Sa’oud  said. “Nevertheless, efforts to combat pollution should continue. Otherwise it might last 100 to 150 hours next year or the year after, triggering serious health concerns." 


The seasonal cloud of pollutants, which causes respiratory problems and has a noticeably adverse effect on health, is attributed to a number of human and environmental factors. They include the 2.1 million cars in the Egyptian capital, smoke from farmers’ annual burning of rice hay and the city’s physical location between two elevated areas. 


“Cairo in general is witnessing an increase in the number of bronchial asthma and respiratory obstruction patients, and respiratory system tumours because of pollution,” said Mahmoud Abdel Majeed, head of the Abbasiya Chest Diseases Hospital, adding that children and the elderly were most at risk.  


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