By Hana Namrouqa – Jul 16,2016 –
AMMAN — Dodging pickup trucks and buses spewing black smoke is the primary concern of Lama Nassar when she drives.

Leaving her car windows open to enjoy the summer breeze is a luxury she can’t afford in the busy streets of Amman, said Nassar, who is forced to keep the windows closed to prevent soot from vehicles running on diesel from blowing in her face.

“It is impossible to leave the car windows open when I’m driving, especially if any of my children are riding with me. The black smoke that comes out from buses and pickup trucks is suffocating,” Nassar, a mother of two, told The Jordan Times.

Turning on the air conditioning, even when it is not that hot, is the only solution, Nassar added.

Meanwhile, walking or jogging on the sidewalks is a challenge for Mohammad Izzedin, who lives in Shmeisani.

“Jogging in Amman is an absolute health hazard; the sidewalks are in a terrible condition and then comes the fact that you are inhaling poisons from diesel-run vehicles,” Izzedin, a computer engineer, said.

Low-quality diesel used in heavy-duty vehicles and buses in the country produces clouds of black smoke that jeopardise public health and pollute the environment, according to experts.

Khamees Khattab, vice president of the Jordanian Association of Chest Physicians, said that the black smoke from diesel-run vehicles is an “absolute source of pollution” and has adverse effects on the respiratory system.

“The black smoke has a terrible impact on people with respiratory problems. Moreover, it can be the trigger for asthma and allergies in healthy people carrying the gene for certain respiratory allergies or asthma,” Khattab told The Jordan Times.

The physician said that the strong smell of diesel exhaust fumes causes discomfort of the bronchial tubes among healthy people and can lead to spasms among people with allergies and asthma.

“In addition to the strong smell, the content of the black smoke is poisonous,” Khattab underscored.

The health expert highlighted that the main driver of allergies, particularly among children, is air pollution, followed by genetics and recurring respiratory system infections.

“The development of respiratory system infections tends to increase among infants, children and pregnant women who are exposed to air pollution,” Khattab stressed, noting that some studies indicate that air pollution leads to early delivery among pregnant women and decreased birth weight among newborns.

“In addition, studies show that 8-10 per cent of the country’s population suffers from asthma and different kinds of respiratory illness,” the health expert said.

He urged people to avoid inhaling car fumes and regularly clean their noses with water, while people with allergies are advised to wear masks in areas with high levels of car emissions.

Maan Nasayrah, executive director of the Jordan Environment Society, said black smoke emitted by diesel-run vehicles is a source of environment pollution in the country.

“The black clouds of smoke which blow from heavy duty diesel engines are suffocating and killing people. They pollute the air and cause illnesses,” Nasayrah told The Jordan Time, calling for increased monitoring of car fumes.

Environment experts have previously accused the Jordan Petroleum Refinery Company of failing to adhere to Jordanian standards that limit the amount of sulphur in diesel. They say that levels at the refinery are hundreds of times higher than the allowed limits, critically affecting the environment and public health.

European standards specify a maximum of 10 parts-per notation (ppn) of sulphur in diesel fuel, while Jordan specified in 2005 that diesel from the refinery should have a maximum of 350 ppn of sulphur, according to experts who said that the refinery is producing diesel that does not adhere to the local standards.

In a statement e-mailed to The Jordan Times, the refinery company said that its diesel does comply with Jordanian standards, except for sulphur concentration.

The refinery said that its current facilities are not capable of producing diesel with the required percentage of sulphur.

However, the refinery company said that once its fourth expansion project is completed, it will be able to produce diesel that adheres to the European standard, noting that special units will be built to remove sulphur from diesel.

The refinery’s fourth expansion project is expected to be completed in around four years.