By Carl Zoghzoghi
Picture taken from Science Alert
When tragedy happens, people tend to focus largely on the immediate impact caused by such disaster. Whether it’s a large explosion wiping out half a capital or a fire destroying forest and villages, our thoughts are always fixated on the immediate losses and causalities. While it’s an immediate response mechanism to look into the present losses, disregarding the after effect of such atrocities could lead to far more problems than the impact itself.
Here in Lebanon, ignorance and negligence flow within the government body that is supposed to protect and serve its people. This corruption led to an enormous threat that terrorizes each one of Lebanon’s citizen known as “Incremental Lifetime Cancer Risk” (ILCR), which embodies the risk factors and translates the threat of carcinogens (a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue). To give some more insight what is ILCR, it can be simplified as a mathematical formula which states the following: ILCR = Exposure (μg/kg/d) x Cancer Slope Factor (μg/kg/day)-1. If the ILCR is greater than 1 x 10-5, the risk assessment should either be refined and/or risk management measures should be taken. So basically, ILCR tells us if the exposure to a certain amount of cancer-inducing agent will actually lead to developing cancer withing individuals.
As mentioned, negligence, in Lebanon, is one of central sources of high rates of cancer risks calculated by ILCR index. Our government has failed innumerable times in implementing restrictions and cutbacks on pollutants and distinct ways that led to high ILCR. A spike in ILCR, around 1 in 106 individuals in an urban site in Lebanon, is mostly due to the rise of “Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)” at a staggering rate. PAHs are a class of chemicals, actually pollutants, generated from incomplete combustion and unethical disposal of organic matter. How can we, as Lebanese, be exposed to such pollutants? Well, cigarettes, fumes, wood smoke and simple breathing of air contaminated with vehicles exhaust are common means to such exposure. To add, the garbage crisis in years 2015-2016 gave rise to uncontrolled burnings during cold periods in several regions in Lebanon and released large amount of smoke and fine particles in the atmosphere. These particles hold multiple of organic compounds mainly PAHs.
Keep in mind that ILCR index was not yet calculated which takes into factor the asbestos amount that was exposed to civilians because of old buildings construction material following the beirut’s explosion. It would probably be high and pose a serious risk of developing lung cancer (mesothelioma). This also shows us the complete ignorance of an old and rogue government incapable of assessing the dyer situation following such disaster. Not only their negligence lead to such catastrophe that should have been a wake up call or at least pushed some ruling individual to take action but also after effect crucial to the Lebanese people are still being ignored.
Given the utmost importance of ILCR to assess situations where leading cancer-inducing agents are present and whether people will be actually at risk of developing cancer, countries should shift more their focus towards this matter and use it as a reliable index to control populations’ overall health and lifestyle. Fortunately, the lack of competence that the Lebanese government has shown pushed other scientifically competent individuals to perform such analysis and work on calculating ILCR index. For instance, Dr. Najat Saliba and her own team are working on identifying the many carcinogens in order to give some insight to a desperate Lebanese population.
– Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/201403/documents/pahs_factsheet_cdc_2013.pdf
– Incremental Lifetime Cancer Risk http://www.popstoolkit.com/riskassessment/module/risk+characterization/ilcr.aspx
– Particle bound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons : seasonal variation, source apportionment and cancer risk estimation https://scholarworks.aub.edu.lb/handle/10938/21366
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