The Health and Environmental Alliance (HEAL) called the Serbian government to invest effort to clean up the air in the country as part of the Unmask My City campaign which was launched in Belgrade on World Asthma Day 2017. The campaign won the support of the Serbian Health Ministry and experts at the Novi Sad University School of Medicine who are conducting a pilot project on exposure to suspended particles PM2.5.
HEAL is a non-profit organization involved in researching the effect of the environment on the health of the population in the European Union.
Unmask My City is a global initiative by health care professionals headed by HEAL to improve air quality, lower emissions of toxic gases and reduce the greenhouse effect by sticking to the guidelines laid out on air quality laid out by the World Health Organization through the introduction of appropriate policies and programs.
HEAL health and environment advisor for the Balkans Vlatka Matković Puljić warned that the entire region has to take urgent action to protect the health of the population, adding that in Serbia along more than 10,000 people have died of exposure to suspended particles and ozone. She said the solution lies in replacing coal with renewable energy sources, using railroads for freight transport and improving infrastructure all of which requires political will.
According to figures she quoted, there have been 3,366 deaths in Serbia as a consequence of the use of coal to produce electricity. The mortality rate due to pollution in Serbia is at the level of 137.3 per 100.000 people which is significantly higher than the European average of 64.2, Matković Puljić said.
Experts warn urgent action needed
Those warnings were echoed by Doctor Branislava Matić of the Dr Milan Jovanović Batut Public Health Institute of Serbia who said that monitoring data shows that pollution levels are rising every year which means that urgent measures are needed by everyone including decision makers to solve the problem of bad air quality.
The HEAL appeal for better air quality was also joined by the International Federation of Medical Students Associations – Serbia (IFMSA-Serbia) which expressed concern over the low level of attention paid to prevention of ailments caused by bad air quality. We are the generation that will inherit the world, we are the generation which will cure the air pollution and climate change sicknesses. We demand our right to clean air and environment because of the health of our compatriots, the IMFSA statement said.
Health Ministry State Secretary Dr Meho Mahmutović said the prevention program should be directed towards improving air quality because that leads to a drop in the mortality rate cause by respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and a reduction in medical expenses. The health care aspect has to be considered in taking strategic national decisions, he said.
HEAL works with local health care professionals in Serbia to promote solutions directed at those sources of air pollution which mainly affect cities and solutions for regulations, policies and other activities aimed a achieving positive changes with a key role in the campaign played by visual materials showing people using Light Masks to monitor air quality. Those masks have LED indicators which show green when air quality is good and show red when air quality is bad.
The Unmask My City global campaign has been launched in Belgrade, Warsaw, Adana, Istanbul and Iskenderun, London, Salt Lake City, Chenai and Ahmedabad, Sao Paolo and Emalahlena.