Albanian Capital Faces Air-Pollution Crisis

You may never have heard of Tirana, the capital city of Albania, but it falls not far behind Beijing and New Delhi on the list of the world’s most polluted cities. Hazardous emissions plague the city’s air at levels 10 times higher than those recommended by the World Health Organization, causing cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other ailments. Experts estimate that pollution-related deaths in the city have risen by 20 percent in the past two years, and regional officials are receiving reports of babies born with deformities — not to mention four-legged roosters and two-headed calves. Lead pollution in particular threatens the cognitive development of the city’s children and the genetic health of its future parents. Metal and cement factories in the nearby Elbasan region generate thousands of tons of respiratory-system-clogging dust, and abandoned Soviet-era factories around the country harbor thousands of tons of chemical and toxic waste. Albanian Environment Minister Ethem Ruka warns of a coming humanitarian catastrophe and says the country will need at least a billion dollars in international aid to avoid it.