Resume: One of the significant sources of lead pollution in the atmosphere is poor quality fuel for vehicles. Therefore, fuel quality control is of paramount importance for air protection. Since 1 January 2017, all of the national standard parameters for petrol quality have been adjusted to modern European norms with Georgia now using Euro 5 standard petrol. In regard to diesel fuel, its quality corresponds to the Euro 4 standard from 1 January 2019 and will be in line with the Euro 5 standard from 1 January 2020. As a result, an analysis of dozens of air samples taken in 2018 showed that the lead concentration did not exceed the allowed level in any of the samples.
Monitoring of lead concentration in the atmosphere has been in progress in Tbilisi since 2008 and since 2014 in Batumi, Kutaisi and Rustavi. The allowed level of lead concentration is 0.0003mg/m3.
Since 2008, lead concentration in Tbilisi has never surpassed the allowed level and has a tendency of an annual decline (the exception was 2015 when the lead concentration increased although it did not surpass the allowed level). In 2017, the average annual concentration of lead in the atmosphere in Tbilisi was 0.000001 mg/m3 which is the lowest average annual figure since 2008. In 2018, lead concentration in the atmosphere in Tbilisi did not surpass the allowed level.
In regard to Batumi, Rustavi and Kutaisi, lead concentration in the atmosphere did not surpass the allowed level in 2014-2017. In Batumi, lead concentration in the atmosphere has been declining annually since 2014. In Rustavi and Kutaisi, lead concentration in the atmosphere increased slightly in 2015 as compared to 2014 although it has been declining since 2016. In contrast to Tbilisi, information about lead concentration in the aforementioned cities is not published on a daily basis. The National Environmental Agency of Georgia has not yet published a report on the average annual concentration of chemical particles in the air.
Gia Gachechiladze, Chair of the Georgian Dream Greens Parliamentary Faction, stated at the plenary session of the Parliament of Georgia:“ We implemented European standards and as a result, lead concentration in Tbilisi and other cities is below the allowed level.”
FactCheck took interest in the accuracy of the statement.
Lead is a toxic metal whose widespread use has caused extensive environmental contamination and health problems in many parts of the world. This is a cumulative toxic material which affects neurological, haematological, cardiovascular and renal systems. In this regard, children are particularly vulnerable. There are different sources of lead emissions in the atmosphere. The most important are large garbage disposal areas where garbage is burned, paint and repair materials with lead content, food with lead content (food dyes) and transport. There are solid particles of lead oxides, chlorides, fluorides nitrates, sulphates, etc., in vehicle emissions. The greatest source of lead contamination in Georgia is from vehicle emissions.
In accordance with the information of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, a number of measures were made to protect air quality in 2017-2018. In July 2018, the Government of Georgia approved a 40 Points Programme which incorporates primary measures to cap spray emissions as one of the main sources of air pollution. In accordance with the Ministry’s information, although the aforementioned programme is mostly about improving the air quality in Tbilisi, some measures go beyond the capital and include the whole of Georgia.
As already mentioned, vehicle emissions are one of the main sources of lead pollution in the atmosphere. Therefore, fuel and fuel quality control is of paramount importance. Since 1 January 2017, all of the national standard parameters for petrol quality have been adjusted to modern European standards with Euro 5 standard petrol now being used in the country. Since 1 May 2017, the allowed sulphur levels in solid fuels as well as in gasoline and naval transport fuel have been determined. In 2017, an interactive map for industrial spray, map.emoe.gov.ge, was created where information about sources and their functions are accessible. Modern European air quality standards were implemented in 2018 and air quality assessment is now being conducted in line with modern European standards. In addition, an automatic mobile station was purchased which means that the air quality monitoring network has expanded. Apart from the aforementioned, the diesel fuel quality standard has become higher which means that diesel quality will be of the Euro 5 standard from 1 January 2020. It has already become the Euro 4 standard since 1 January 2019. In 2018, several dozen samples were collected in Tbilisi, Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti, Shida Kartli, Mtskheta-Mtianeti, Kvemo Kartli, Imereti, Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti, Guria, Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kakheti. The collected samples were sent for analysis to an internationally accredited laboratory which concluded that lead concentration is below 0.0025mg/l for each sample which does not exceed the highest allowed level of lead in fuel (0.005 g/l).
Monitoring of lead concentration in the atmosphere is conducted in four cities throughout Georgia:Tbilisi, Batumi, Rustavi and Kutaisi. Air monitoring in Tbilisi has been ongoing since 2008 whilst it started in 2014 in Batumi, Rustavi and Kutaisi. The allowed level of lead concentration in the atmosphere is 0.0003mg/m3. Lead concentration in Tbilisi exceeded the allowed level in the atmosphere in 2008. Since 2008, lead concentration in the atmosphere has declined substantially and has been decreasing annually (the only exception was 2015 when lead concentration became comparably higher although it did not exceed the allowed level). In 2017, the average annual concentration of lead in the atmosphere in Tbilisi was 0.0001 mg/m3 which is the lowest average annual figure since 2008. The National Environmental Agency of Georgia has been publishing daily air monitoring results since 13 June 2018. The bulletins published before 25 September 2018 only contained indicators about the atmospheric concentration of dust PM10 and PM2.5 particles, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and dioxide as well as NOX and ozone. Data about lead concentration has been accessible since 25 September 2018. An analysis of the bulletins published since 25 September indicates that lead concentration in the atmosphere has not surpassed the allowed level.
Graph 1: Lead Concentration in the Atmosphere in Tbilisi, 2012-2017
Source: National Environmental Agency
In regard to Batumi, Rustavi and Kutaisi, lead concentration monitoring in the atmosphere has been ongoing since 2014. Information about these indicators can be found in the annual reports of the National Environmental Agency. In the period of 2014-2017, lead concentration in the atmosphere has not surpassed the allowed level in any of the aforementioned cities. In contrast to Tbilisi, lead concentration monitoring results are not published on a daily basis in Batumi, Rustavi and Kutaisi. The National Environmental Agency has not yet published information about the annual average concentration of chemical particles in the air for 2018. Therefore, it is impossible to speak about lead concentration levels in the atmosphere for the entire Georgia.
Graph 2: Lead Concentration Level in the Atmosphere in Three Georgian Cities, 2014-2017
Source: National Environmental Agency
In accordance with the recommendation of the World Health Organization, it would be better to focus on the prevention and complete eradication of lead in the atmosphere even if the figures for lead concentration are in line with the norm. We should not stop fighting against lead pollution in the air. The most dangerous is airborne lead contamination (even if quantity is small) which is accumulated in blood and creates a risk factor for health.