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Resume: As a result of research studies carried out in 53 countries of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) European Region Member States, it was confirmed that cardiovascular and respiratory diseases as well as type 2 diabetes and cancer are directly linked to air pollution and climate change.

In accordance with the statistics of the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health, the number of registered new cases of airway diseases has been growing since 2008. The biggest number of registered new cases was in 2016 (744,673). That number dropped to 647,066 in 2017.

In regard to the attitude and the position of the Georgian population in regard to pollution, these issues have featured among topics of local importance in NDI public opinion polls since 2015. In accordance with the 2015 August poll, 20% of the surveyed population emphasised that the pollution issue was problematic. This number was 18% in June 2016 and 22% in June 2017. It was 23% in December 2017 and 22% in December 2018. Pollution is particularly strongly believed to be problematic in Tbilisi because local surveys identified pollution as number one on the list of local pressing problems in annual rankings. This issue is important for other urban centres (Batumi, Zugdidi, Rustavi, Poti, Gori, Kutaisi) where it is ranked second among the problematic issues.

Analysis

United National Movement MP, Tina Bokuchava, in her speech at the plenary session of the Parliament of Georgia, stated: “In accordance with the joint research study of the World Health Organization, European Union and the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, which was carried out in 53 countries, it is confirmed that there is a direct correlation between air pollution and lung cancer. In addition, there is also a direct correlation between air pollution and other diseases… In accordance with the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health, now in Georgia itself, there is already a dynamic of growth in respiratory diseases in 2012-2016 which is related to deteriorated air quality. Multiple research studies now attest that there is an atmospheric air quality problem in the country. These include research studies which were carried out at the behest of international organisations where people name air pollution as one of the main problems.”

FactCheck took interest in the accuracy of the statement.

Since 1989, 53 countries of the World Health Organization’s European Region Member States have been holding ministerial meetings for environment and health issues. At the ministerial meeting held in April 2015, the countries discussed the findings and the objectives of a research study which indicates that health related problems, such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases as well as type 2 diabetes and cancer, are directly related to air pollution. Air quality is a significant determinant of environment protection. In accordance with the World Health Organization’s 2014 research study, 600,000 premature deaths in European Region Member States in 2012 were the result of diseases caused by air pollution. In most cases, death was a result of ischemic heart diseases, respiratory infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and lung cancer.

The main cause of chronic lung obstructive disease is tobacco smoke. Other risk factors also include: indoor air pollution and atmospheric pollution as well as work-related dust and chemicals.

In accordance with the statistics of the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health, the number of registered new cases of airway diseases has been increasing since 2008. The highest number of registered new cases was in 2016 and amounted to 744,673. This number dropped to 647,066 in 2017. The number of registered new cases had a particularly sharp growth in the period of 2014 and 2015 when it increased from 601,832 to 703,727. Of this amount, however, it remains unknown precisely how many cases were caused either by indoor air pollution or atmospheric air pollution.

Table 1: Number of Registered New Cases of Airway Diseases in Georgia, 2008-2017

Year

Registered New Cases

2008

299,800

2009

447,518

2010

439,289

2011

470,741

2012

521,947

2013

557,495

2014

601,832

2015

703,727

2016

744,673

2017

647,066

Source: National Center for Disease Control and Public Health

Great efforts have been made in the last year to increase the awareness of the population in regard to environment pollution issues. Therefore, the number of people underlining the acute severity of this problem and their demands for moving it up on the agenda has been increasing. Since 2015, the environment pollution problem is in the top five concerns of local importance in the NDI public opinion polls. In accordance with NDI’s August 2015 survey, 20% of the surveyed respondents at the national level emphasised the importance of the environment pollution problem. This number was 18% in the June 2016 poll, 22% in the June 2017 survey, 23% in the December 2017 survey and 22% in December 2018. Tbilisi’s population believes the air pollution issue to be particularly problematic because it is annually ranked as the number-one problem at the local level. This issue bears importance for other big cities, too (Batumi, Zugdidi, Rustavi, Poti, Gori, Kutaisi) and is number two after road problems. In the latest survey which was carried out in December 2018, 48% of Tbilisi’s population emphasised the importance of the environment pollution problem. Of this amount, 57% highlights the air pollution problems, 44% indicates highlights food safety and 40% highlights the existence of hazardous substances (only three possible answers could be selected for this question).

Graph 1: Air Pollution Problem in Georgian Population Opinion Polls

Source: NDI Public Opinion Polls


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