Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

Lethal air pollution in Athens


Increases in the proportion of airborne pollution particles, caused by traffic congestion and the consumption of low-grade unclean fuels, are responsible for thousands of deaths in Athens, say experts.

Each increase of 10 mg/cubic meter in the concentration of these particles contributes to approximately 5,000 deaths per year in Athens, according to Professor Klea Katsouyianni of Athens University’s Medical School. “Athenians are affected most, with high concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and high temperatures,” she said.

An estimated 8 million road journeys per day in the capital boost emissions of these particles, according to transport expert Panos Papadakos.

The illegal trade in diesel fuels – where tax-free heating oil is being sold as automotive fuel – also contributes to pollution, since heating oil pollutes more than automotive fuel, according to Professor Costas Fytianos of Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University.

Note: Other things contributing to higher concentrations of pollution are:

* Lacking infrastructure for bicycles: No bike lanes, no safety laws to protect riders, no infrastructure for bikes on public transportation (no bike racks or metro cars for riders). Bike transportation is a popular and non-polluting mode of transportation in most EU countries, which also doubles as exercise.

* Lack of hybrid and electric cars: No yearly tax incentives for owners or potential owners, limited availability by car dealerships, few (if any) stations offering biofuels.

* No incentive to use public transportation: No carpool lanes, no employee reimbursement, lack of free/fee parking facilities near metro and bus stations, In other countries, companies pay for employees’ transportation if they agree to use the bus/metro; there are no bridge or toll fees for those who carpool; free parking facilities are offered for bus and metro riders by inserting a code inside stations.

* No enforced check of emissions: In other countries, a smog certificate issued after passing an emissions test must be submitted with annual car/motorcycle registration. Those not passing must fix their vehicle, trade it for cleaner transportation or put it in storage.

* Increased use of firewood, which produces dangerous levels of pollution/soot and contributes illegal logging and deforestation, depriving cities further of trees that could help filter air.

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  MRob wrote @ September 12th, 2011 at 18:24

Presently I had 16 days planned for Greece being based in Athens and traveling around to various sites. After 2 days in Athens my mild asthma became much worst and the constant noise drove me out of Athens to a smaller suburb about 25Km away. Greece is quite pleasant except for Athens which is unlivable for me.

Kat Reply:

When I lived in Plaka, I could smell the pollution and my friends asked me if my tissue was ‘black.’ There are particles floating around, and it’s especially bad in summer with heat, humidity and no wind. In 2004, they cut down a lot of trees for the tram line without thinking about shade and environment.

You hear noise because the majority of buildings don’t have insulation or proper double-paned glass, though newer buildings are OK and some hotels have been upgraded. You usually don’t know until after you’ve checked in or signed a lease.

Parts of Athens are fine, it’s just a matter of finding the right situation and both north and south are good solutions. If you’re interested, you can read a few of my stories: “One apartment, hold the mold,” “O klimatismos dude no cometh,” and “Cockroaches and courthouses, landlords and leases in Athens.”

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