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World Resources 1996-97
(A joint publication by The World Resource Institute, The United
 Nations Environment Programme, The United Nations Development
 Programme, and the World Bank)
 (Edited by Dr. Róbinson Rojas)

1. Cities and the Environment

Box 6 Pollution and Health in the Transition Economies

One of the primary challenges for urban areas in transition economies is to clean up the pollution resulting from decades of uncontrolled industrial production (1). Since World War II, these countries have promoted heavy industry, a resource-intensive and highly polluting economic sector. The lack of sufficient environmental regulations and incentives to conserve resources, increase production efficiency, or reduce waste and pollution has greatly exacerbated environmental degradation.

Since 1989, the region's economic downturn has led to reductions in both industrial production and pollution. Industrial production in Bulgaria, for example, fell by more than 50 percent between 1989 and 1992 (2). Annual mean sulfur dioxide concentrations in Prague, Czech Republic; Bratislava, Sl ovakia; and Warsaw, Poland, declined by 50 percent between 1985 and 1990 (3).

Despite such declines in industrial emissions, however, both short-term and long-term sulfur dioxide exposure in the region still regularly exceeds World Health Organization guidelines (4). New threats to air quality are emerging as well, such as rising emissions of lead and nitrogen oxides as more people gain access to cars. Between 1986 and 1993, per capita car ownership increased by 34 percent in Hungary and 64 percent in Poland (5) (6). Many cars are old and inefficient. In Katowice, for instance, 75 percent of lead emissions come from cars that are 10 to 30 years old and still burn leaded fuel (7).

Recent evidence suggests that the region's pollution is one of several factors adversely affecting human health, although exact cause-and-effect relationships remain unclear. In contrast to usual demographic trends, life expectancies in Poland's urban areas are lower than in rural areas; pollution is also concentrated in urban areas (8). In the Czech Republic, life expectancies in urban regions affected by heavy air pollution are significantly lower than for the country as a whole (9).

In several cities, especially mining towns, ambient lead levels are high (10). Exposure to even low doses of lead can cause subtle brain damage and learning problems in children. Average blood levels among exposed children in Central and Eastern Europe are often greater than 15 micrograms per deciliter and sometimes exceed 40 micrograms per deciliter, especially in city centers with heavy car traffic (11). By comparison, in Vancouver, Canada, where unleaded gasoline is mandated, average blood levels among 2- to 3-year-olds is roughly 5.3 micrograms per deciliter.

High levels of air pollution have also been linked with acute and chronic illnesses such as asthma and bronchitis, as well as increased mortality. In Krakow, Poland, an epidemiological study showed an increase in lung cancer risk among residents of the city center; in the past, especially, the central area was heavily polluted by the extensive burning of coal to heat buildings and homes (12).

At the same time, urban residents in the region are facing increasing risks from crumbling infrastructure and deteriorating health services. Throughout the region, there has been a resurgence of "poverty diseases" such as diphtheria, tuberculosis, and hepatitis, providing graphic evidence of the decline in sanitary conditions, hygiene, and nutrition (13). Housing stock in particular has suffered from neglect. In Russian cities, 20 percent of the housing stock lacks running water, sewerage, and central heating (14).

In response, many municipalities are implementing broad-based strategies to curb industrial pollution. In Katowice, for example, the Minister of Environmental Protection, in cooperation with local officials, prepared a list of the most polluting industries and ordered them to reduce emissions. Katowice has also expanded its air quality monitoring system, which is now the most extensive in Poland (15).

Novokuznetsk, Russia, has forged a partnership with the U.S. city of Pittsburgh to exchange information about the links between pollution and health and to learn from its experiences in tackling industrial pollution (16).

References and Notes

1. The term "transition economies" lacks a formal definition, but is
   used here to include the successor states of the former Soviet Union
   (Armenia, Azerbaijan, the Republic of Belarus, the Republic of
   Estonia, the Republic of Georgia, the Republic of Kazakhstan,
   the Kyrgyz Republic, the Republic of Latvia, the Republic of
   Lithuania, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation,
   the Republic of Tajikistan, the Republic of Turkmenistan, Ukraine,
   and the Republic of Uzbekistan) and the countries of Central Europe
   (Albania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania,
   and the Slovak Republic).

2. Janusz Cofala, "Energy Reform in Central and Eastern Europe," Energy
   Policy, Vol. 22, No. 6 (June 1994), p. 490.

3. European Environment Agency, Europe's Environment: The Dobris
   Assessment, David Stanners and Philippe Bourdeau, eds. (European
   Environment Agency, Copenhagen, Denmark, 1995), p. 268.

4. Ibid.

5. Motor Vehicle Manufacturers' Association (MVMA)of the United States,
   MVMA Motor Vehicle Facts & Figures '86 (MVMA, Detroit, Michigan,
   1986), p. 37.

6. American Automobile Manufacturers' Association (AAMA), Motor Vehicle
   Facts & Figures '95 (AAMA, Washington, D.C., 1995), p. 47.

7. Jerzy Borkiewicz et al.,  "Environmental Profile of Katowice," draft
   paper (The World Bank, Washington, D.C., 1991), p. 9.

8. Clyde Hertzman, Environment and Health in Central and Eastern Europe
   (The World Bank, Washington, D.C., 1995), p. ix.

9. Ibid.

10. Op. cit. 3, p. 269.

11. Op. cit. 8, pp. 20-25.

12. Op. cit. 3, p. 302.

13. United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)International Child
    Development Centre, Crisis in Mortality, Health, and Nutrition,
    Economies in Transition Studies Regional Monitoring Report No. 2
   (UNICEF, Florence, Italy, 1994), p. 54.

14. Op. cit. 3, p. 274.

15. Wojciech Beblo, "Katowice, Poland: Industrial Air Pollution and the
    Air Protection Program," in The Human Face of the Urban Environment,
    Proceedings of the Second Annual World Bank Conference on
    Environmentally Sustainable Development, Ismail Serageldin, Michael
    Cohen, and K.C. Sivaramakrishnan, eds. (The World Bank, Washington,
    D.C., September 19ţ21, 1994), pp. 66-69.

16. Viktor Zinovievich Koltun, Institute for Advanced Training of
    Doctors, Novokuznetsk, Russia, 1994 (personal communication).

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