The Malta Independent 26 June 2019, Wednesday

TMID Editorial: The air our children breathe - The dust and pollution silently killing us

Saturday, 18 May 2019, 10:31 Last update: about 2 months ago

A photo from Qawra that did the rounds on the social media sometime last week showing enormous clouds of dust erupting from a construction site and with a solitary construction worker there vainly battling the cloud with what looked to be little more than a hosepipe is most symptomatic of what the country, not just the neighbours in Qawra, is suffering.

One MEP candidate recently said she would have to send her child abroad because of her increasing asthma attacks.  She was ridiculed most unfairly, when the truth of the matter is all around for us to see with our very eyes on a daily basis. 

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How many people do we know who suffer from asthma who, when they go abroad or even to Gozo, their respiration improves to their surprise - only to return to dust- and exhaust-riddled Malta and the wheezing and coughing begins again in earnest?

Clearly, there is something wrong with the air in Malta.

For some reason, asthma statistics for Malta are very few and far between.  But Independent MEP candidate Arnold Cassola this week cited a study by The Lancet, a highly respected medical journal, which classified the asthma rates in children in every country in the world.

The results for Malta are shocking to say the least.

It transpires that Maltese children suffer the highest asthma rates in the whole of Europe – Europe, not just the European Union.  And, incredibly, Malta’s children are eighth in the world when it comes to suffering from the debilitating respiratory ailment– placing only ahead of Bahrain, Kuwait, Egypt, Congo, South Korea, Qatar and Taiwan.

As such, it is little wonder that the government does not commission very many studies in the prevalence of asthma in our country – the results are devastating and are a serious cause for concern.  And as such, we thank The Lancet, and Cassola, for bringing these statistics to light.

As Cassola pointed out, ‘The building dust produced in Malta and the heavy car emissions have rendered Malta the sick country of Europe with our children condemned to unhealthy living conditions for the rest of their lives.’ 

And he could not have been more spot-on.

He also makes a most solid point about exporting more cars to Gozo, the refuge where asthma suffers go for some fresh air, with the advent of the tunnel.  Not only that, but we will be helping, in no small way, to spread the scourge of asthma-causing pollution to Gozo’s children while we are at it.

A Maltese delegation this week told the United Nation’s Committee on the Rights of the Child that Malta is ‘actively cooperating with international partners to address the harmful effects on the air pollution on children’s health.  In fact, tackling air pollution was priority in a portfolio that the government was putting together following its signature of the international treaty on the matter.’

That would be most welcome news indeed, our children’s and their children’s wellbeing and very lives may very well depend on it.

And if you are not a child or if you don’t have children, don’t fall complacent - you’re still very much in clear and present danger.  We all breathe the same air and it will get to you eventually in due course unless some real action is taken.

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