‘We breathe it in while we sleep’: Iraqi Kirkuk troubled by air pollution

    29 Aug 2021

    A nasty smell is spreading through eastern Kirkuk in Iraq, and residents are worried about the effect on their health from nearby industries, including oil facilities, Rudaw reports.

    “We don’t smell the nasty scent all the time, but sometimes we do. It smells like burnt crude. Our air conditioners pull the smell into our houses. We breathe it in while we sleep,” said Mohammed Najjar, who lives in Kirkuk’s Panja Ali neighborhood.

    An oil refinery is located less than a kilometer away.

    “Just try to stay here for one night, especially in the summertime. We don’t even dare to turn on our air conditioners, despite the nuisance of mosquitoes,” said Mohammed Hadi, a neighbor.

    The environment directorate in the oil-rich province said they have carried out inspections and industries in the area are meeting regulations.

    “We checked the area. According to our rules and regulations, however, the existence of the factories in the area is allowed,” said Mohammed Fatih, head of the Kirkuk environment department.

    But the pollution has doctors worried.

    “We live in an oil-rich city. The gasses that exist in the air of our city carry most of the heavy [pollutants], resulting in breathing problems and poisoning and asthma, as well as blood and lung cancers,” said microbiologist Dr. Pakiza Fuad.

    The Kirkuk Oncology and Hematology Centre has registered 1,450 new patients in the past eight months. That’s six new patients every day, and nearly half of them have cancer.

    “Oil refineries pose a serious threat to cities’ air pollution, which can lead to serious health problems, such as cancer. It has also caused psychological problems for the residents. In and outside of the city, there’s no green space for people to relax. Usually, when they need a break, they go to Sulaimani or Erbil,” said Nyaz Ahmed Amin, the center director.Meanwhile, the water crisis threatens 12 million Iraqis, Syrians – you may read more here.

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