While respiratory conditions among Bulgarian children increase, authorities fail to take action

In recent years the problem of air pollution in Bulgaria has become much more noticeable – and discussed – in the country. Apart from climate change, this is one of the most pressing challenges not only to the environment, but also to human health. The 9th grader from the “Geo Milev” English Language School “Geo Milev” in Burgas, Daniela Kostadinova discusses the impact of air pollution in her article for sCOOL Media.

 

Over the last ten years, air pollution and environmental pollution as a whole have been recognised as some of the most worrisome and commented problems in the world. In Bulgaria, this issue is rarely commented or addressed compared to the West, where countries have already sought effective solutions to various climate problems and have improved their standard of living. It is a fact that the air in many Bulgarian cities is terribly polluted thanks to man and his activity. When humankind burns millions of tons of fossil fuels to satisfy the public’s needs, huge amounts of fine dust particles, carbon dioxide and many different heavy metals are accumulating and collecting in the atmosphere of our planet Earth.

 

This, of course, leads to unwelcome consequences, such as the increase of allergies and respiratory diseases in younger generations. Nowadays, with all the advanced technologies we possess, serious steps must be taken for the future of the young generation and their normal and proper development in a clean and peaceful environment. The fact that almost all schools and kindergartens in Bulgaria rely on the burning of fossil fuels that create huge amount of net emissions, leads to the idea that even the institutions in our country do not offer to our future generation a good place for their development and growth.

At this moment in time, many families in Bulgaria are forced to move from the big city to better places to live. The reasons for this are not only of the mass polluters in the city (factories for different types of production, institutions which are burning fossil fuels, cars, etc.), but also because of health problems with their respiratory, nervous and cardiovascular systems. According to the Bulgarian Society for Pulmonary Diseases for the past few years every 10th person has become an asthma sufferer – there are about 150000 children suffering from the disease, which is twice as many as compared to registered adults’ cases.  Most of these children are suspended from sports classes, which leads to other problems such as obesity due to their immobilisation. Another disadvantage is that children are sometimes prevented from attending school because of the effects of air pollution. In an interview for the Bulgarian National Radio (December 2018), Deputy Minister of Education Tanya Mihaylova announced that parents of children with chronic respiratory diseases would be able to release them from school hours when days with high fine dust particle are expected in the air. In this way, by protecting children from complications, they miss important classes, making it much more difficult for them to catch up without having a qualified teacher in their homes.

 

Treatment for asthma is difficult, but it is possible to avoid its occurrence among pupils. In the Western countries, a significantly good solution to reducing net emissions and improving human health  has already been found. Using RES(Renewable Energy Sources)  as a fuel has led to a decline in the numbers of people who are suffering form asthma, with the additional benefit of improving certain areas of their economy. One of the mass-produced energy sources in Europe is wood biomass (wood chips and pellets). It has a number of advantages for using it to produce heat in our country. Its first advantage is that it burns as much carbon dioxide as it absorbs from the environment. Thus, it is not a net pollutant and is considered RES(Renewable Energy Sources). The second advantage is that it contains negligible amounts of sulphur, nitrogen, chlorine and other heavy metals,  which are harmful to our environment and human health. Biomass is also the only RES (Renewable Energy Source)  in Bulgaria with the potential for heat production, considering the presence of forests and their annual increase, according to data from the The Executive Forest Agency in the interview for Bulgarian national television. The extraction of wood biomass is also a major way of rebuilding forests in Bulgaria and their function in nature. The same applies to biomass from agricultural crops.

 

The whole system is related to investing as quickly as  possible in new and modern heating installations using RES (Renewable Energy Sources) whose price is not even more expensive than currently used fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas). A very good example of this is the district heating station in the neighbourhood Meden Rudnik in Burgas, which has replaced fuel oil with biomass (wood chips and pellets). Now it supplies 2 schools and 1 kindergarten with energy, making the area where the children spend most of their time in, a clean and safe space for their development. Hopefully, their example will be taken on by other stakeholders across the country.