Filiz Gazi / DUVAR

Recent figures released by Turkey’s Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning indicate that air pollution is the worst in Turkey’s largest cities, and that several Istanbul neighborhoods exceed the acceptable limit for the pm10 pollutant several times over. 

Regulations stipulate that 50 micrograms per cubic meter is the limit value for the presence of the pm10 (particulate matter 10 micrometers or lower in in size) pollutant, but the Istanbul districts of Alibeyköy, Kağıthane and Göztepe were found to have levels of 173, 211 and 195 micrograms per cubic meter respectively. 

Referencing a study conducted in the Dutch city of Rotterdam between 2002-2006 on the ages of children between the ages of 6-10, Dr. Sultan Tarlacı from Istanbul’s Üsküdar University’s Brain Hospital said that cleaner air ensured a thicker brain cortex. 

“The degree of air pollution present when the children were in their mother’s wombs was compared with their brains and intelligence levels later on in life, and the results were unbelievable. Children who were in their mother’s wombs during periods of increased air pollution were determined to have thinner brain cortexes,” Tarlacı said. 

According to environmental engineer Cevahir Efe Akçelik, increased construction and the proliferation of skyscrapers in Istanbul has resulted in increasingly poor air quality in recent years:

“The result of concrete production activities, demolition activities, and excavations, essentially the city turning into a construction site, has resulted in intense air pollution particularly in the district of Kadıköy. Furthermore, the skyscrapers that are increasing in an unplanned fashion have reduced the quality of the air,” Akçelik said, adding that the heightened presence of these buildings slows the flow of air in the city and blocks the dispersal of pollution. 

World Health Organization (WHO) figures indicate that 7 million people die annually due to air pollution. Referencing the figures, Istanbul independent radio station Açık Radyo’s editor-in-chief Ömer Madra referred to air pollution as a “silent killer.” 

“It affects brain decline, decrease in mental ability, dementia and mental retardation. Children are affected when they are in their mother’s wombs. The latest research indicate that the nano particles resulting from air pollution can pave the way for brain cancer. Air pollution affects every part of the body,” Madra said, adding that 152 of the world’s 196 countries are affected by air pollution.