“Towards clean energy resources in combating air pollution”

Every year, the third week of December is celebrated as the “Week of the Fight against Air Pollution”. We had an interview with IU Environmental Engineering Department Academic Member Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ülkü Alver Şahin about the factors that cause air pollution and the measures taken against them in the “Week of the Fight against Air Pollution”.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ülkü Alver Şahin, by stating that pollutants except from the basic components creating air and changes at concentrations of air components lead to air pollution, said: “We call air pollution to the affection of these pollutant parameters over human health and ecology. The basic air pollutant parameters are particulate matter and sulfur dioxides. Apart from these, there are a lot of pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, ozone, carbon monoxide, and volatile organics. It is determined that their presence over a certain concentration in the air effects human health and ecology.”

“Support clean energy”

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Şahin, who implied that the most basic reason of air pollution in cities is the usage of coal, said: “The improper usage of poor quality coal especially for the purpose of heating causes air pollution. Industrial Facilities also use coal beside natural gas for energy. Air pollution based on heating make up 50% of the air pollution in cities. Related standards should be studiously applied so that quality coal is burned. The coals brought for heating to cities should be kept under control. Surely, the most ideal thing is preventing the preference of coal burning in order to avoid air pollution arising from heating. Supporting clean energy sources should be the basic policy. The air pollution is considerably prevented by starting the usage of natural gas in many cities after 1995. The dissemination of the usage of natural gas and the effective usage of solar and wind power should be in the energy policy.”

“Meteorological and topographical conditions be analyzed”

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Şahin, who drew attentions to urbanization as another important cause of air pollution, said: “The factor that provides the spread of air pollutants in the atmosphere is meteorological effects. Therefore; if you block wind, temperature and wind direction, these pollutants cannot spread. They stay in the place where they emerge and come down to the city. Thus, while developing a city plan meteorological and topographical conditions should be well analyzed. While these plans are being made, the constructions that cause air pollution should be considered as an important topic.”

“Important strategies development”      

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Şahin, who told important strategies about air pollution in Istanbul should be developed, said: “As a result of measurements made by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization, we see that particulate matter measurement is on the border in Turkey, and in some cities, sulfur dioxide is at very high levels especially in winter. There has to be some works on them. The Ministry monitors air pollutants on a very large scale and makes continuous measurements. We can monitor them on internet also. Therefore, measurements are carried out very well and standardized. But now we have to go beyond the limit excess and develop strategies for prevention. Our regulations have serious provisions on industrial problems. These conditions should be clearly provided for all installations. The flue gas treatment systems have to be installed and operated properly. Surely, it is the official institutions that will do the inspection. In addition, integrated waste management in the industry should be encouraged and supported a little more. Solutions for solid, water and air pollution need to be produced in an integrated manner.”

“It is our duty to protect the environment”

Emphasizing that there should be a comprehensive state policy to prevent air pollution, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Şahin said, “State planning for the prevention of air pollution should be encouraging and supportive. It is necessary to prevent the concepts that constitute air pollution from their sources. We have to turn towards clean energy sources. We need to create some plans to encourage solar and wind energy. Of course, we cannot control and make laws about everything. It is our duty to protect the environment. First of all, it is necessary for the individuals to be voluntary and willing and then the politics should develop policies that are supportive.”

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Şahin, who indicated that there are some projects about the design and research of the Avcılar Campus’ wastewater treatment system currently carried out at the Istanbul University’s Department of Environmental Engineering, said “After our negotiations with the Metropolitan Municipality as the team of Environmental Engineering finally give their results, we were able to establish an air quality measurement station in the Avcılar campus. We are currently actively measuring. Both meteorological measurements are taken and air quality parameters are measured. We prefer it to be a station with high R&D quality, so we went beyond general air pollution parameters in Turkey. What we measure here are some pollutant parameters that show a carcinogenic effect when entering the respiratory system.”

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Şahin noted that not only environmental engineering students, but all engineering students should have the knowledge to raise awareness. Indicating that environmental pollution and environmental control techniques should be added to the syllabuses, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Şahin said, “I think that various engineering departments should at least have a basic knowledge of what environmental pollution incidents related to their sector can be and how they should be controlled. It will definitely require interdisciplinary work in their practice. By putting environmental education into the syllabus and making sure that students at least learn about it during their education, we might be able to raise awareness.”

Emphasizing that one of the main reasons for the recent air pollution is the particulate matter concentration, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Şahin ended his speech by saying, ”The breathable particulate matter parameter is referred to as PM10. When people breathe, they inhale the particulars that are less than 10 microns, but only the ones that are less than 2,5 microns are settled in the lungs. The particulars below 1 micron reach the depths of lungs. Fine particles can cause cancer, respiratory system disorders, heart and circulatory system diseases with its toxic components. The PM is now a parameter defined by the World Health Organization as a carcinogenic substance. While the limits of both PM2.5 and PM10 parameters are defined in the World Health Organization, the US and European Union, only the limit values ​​of particulate substances of 10 microns or less are defined in Turkey. We have to reduce the particulate matter values in our country. Currently, these values ​​are seen to be exceeded in many parts of Turkey. We need to develop some sort of effort to make this situation better. In general, providing traffic flow, promoting railway system transportation, turning towards clean energy sources, application of clean production techniques in industry and increasing green areas are the basic solutions to prevent air pollution.”

Translated by İrem YAŞAR and Eda AYDEMİR

IU Department of Press and Public Relations

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E-Mail: iubilgi@istanbul.edu.tr