Pollution as Bad
as 15 Cigarettes a Day
Rossella Lorenzi, Reuters Health
FLORENCE, Italy (Reuters Health) - Breathing Milan's polluted
air exposes the city's residents to as much benzene as smoking
15 cigarettes a day, according to an Italian study released this
The report, published in the magazine ``Attenzione,'' comes as
smog-bound Italy is fighting pollution by banning private vehicle
use in most northern cities.
Dr. Piermario Biava, of the occupational safety unit at Sesto
San Giovanni hospital, monitored Milan's urban police officers
in order to measure levels of benzene and similar chemicals in
As expected, urban police officers had a greater concentration
of benzene than the ``control'' group, who had less exposure to
polluted air on city streets. Those who also smoked had even higher
benzene levels: 348 nanograms per litre compared to 174 nanograms
per litre in nonsmoking policemen.
``Smoking doubles the expulsion of benzene. Considering that
smokers smoked on average 15 cigarettes per day, we can say that
breathing in Milan implies an absorption of benzene equal to the
amount of benzene absorbed when smoking 15 cigarettes per day,''
More than a month without rain in northern Italy has pushed the
region's chronic pollution problems to a critical level. In Milan,
levels of microscopic particles have soared to five times the
permitted maximum. In Turin, meanwhile, particulates exceeded
the permitted level 18-fold during the first 18 days of 2002.
``Taking a walk is really dangerous these days,'' Annamaria Moretti,
the president of AIPO, the association of Italian pneumologists,
told Reuters Health.
She said that the number of requests for medical examinations
relating to lung problems have increased in recent weeks. ``Children
and old people are the most affected, with bronchitis, laryngitis
and other allergic pathologies. Patients who have asthma and chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease often experience an aggravation
Authorities in the northern region of Lombardy enforced a ban
on private vehicle use for 12 hours on Sunday in an effort to
cut the soaring pollution. Measures to ban traffic are being enforced
in Milan, Turin and 61 other cities throughout the country starting
on Tuesday and Wednesday, until further notice.
Reference Source 89