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Milan's Pollution as Bad
as 15 Cigarettes a Day
Excerpt By 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 week.

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 their urine.

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,'' Biava said.

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 of symptoms.''

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



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