More than half of the 81 provinces in Turkey — 56 percent — breathed “polluted air” last year, according to a report prepared by the Right to Clean Air Platform.
The province that has the worst air quality in 2018 was the southeastern province of Kahramanmaraş, the report said. This province was followed by the eastern province of Iğdır and southern province of Mersin in terms of “worst air quality.”
The report said the only province that had “clean air” as per World Health Organization standards last year was the northeastern province of Ardahan.
The report also said that 51,574 people died of air pollution-related illnesses in Turkey in 2017. According to the report, this number is seven times higher than the ones who died in traffic accidents in the same year. The provinces that had the highest number of such deaths were Istanbul, the western province of Bursa and the capital Ankara.
If the level of air pollution had been reduced to the numbers recommended by the World Health Organization, 13 percent of deaths caused by air pollution could have be prevented in 2017, the report said.
The Right to Clean Air Platform consists of 16 professional organizations and NGOs working on air pollution and health impacts in Turkey since 2015. Among its members are many prominent organization such as the Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion, better known in abbreviated form as TEMA, World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF), Association of Public Health Specialists (HASUDER) and Turkish Neurological Society.
Prof. Dr. Çiğdem Çağlayan, HASUDER’s representative for the platform, said that polluted air was as dangerous as smoking and there was no escape from it.
“We know that air pollution plays a very important role in lung and heart-related diseased. The substances in the air should be at a certain limit. In the air exist some substances that have been dissolved and dusts suspended. Their quantity is very important,” said Çağlayan.
“The air pollution control regulations in Turkey allow for a higher air pollution level than the criteria determined by the World Health Organization. For pollution indicators, the organization’s limits should be the base,” she added.
The Right to Clean Air Platform says on its website that its aim is “to advocate for the right to live in an environment with clean air and to protect the public health from the air pollution, especially resulting from the existing and the planned coal fired power plants in Turkey.”