The public health consequences of pollution are severe. Compared to the average life expectancy in the Romanian population, in Baia Mare, the life expectancy 2.2 years less; also, the overall mortality index is 10-15% higher; D2 deficiency is 65-95% higher, and the frequency of metabolic diseases caused by lead pollution is 40-60% higher.
Past extractions at the Sasar mine have caused pollution of the environment: surface and underground water, air and soil pollution.
- The water pollution is due to chemical substances and solid suspension particles; furthermore, rain and groundwater, contaminated after contact with the abandoned mines, runs off into the river without pre-treatment, causing permanent damage to Sasar river and its tributaries.
- The air pollution is caused by the gases coming from oxidizing and burning of the minerals from the tailing ponds; this contamination is extremely harmful to human health, crops, and vegetation.
- The soil pollution is due to the accumulation of many heavy metals (HM) in the ground, which leads to the inhibition of bacteria activity and a decrease of nutrient mobility in the soil, affecting flora and fauna in the area.
Exposure to high levels of air pollution can cause a variety of adverse health effects, amongst them an increase in the risk of respiratory infections, heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer. Short and long-term exposure to air pollutants is associated with poor health outcomes. More severe consequences affect people who are already ill; children, the elderly, and the poor are more susceptible. The most harmful pollutants – closely associated with excessive premature mortality – are fine PM2.5 particles that penetrate deep into the lungs’ passageways. Although air quality in Baia Mare area has generally improved over the last years, the adverse health effects of particulate air pollution, even at relatively low levels, remain a public health concern.
Fig. 2: Questionnaire Results of Citizens’ Perception of Environmental Pollution Risks. Source: SPIRE Desk analysis, Research repository & Awareness appraisal report.
Thanks to a field visit in Baia Mare in November 2019, the SPIRE project team launched several semi-structured or open interviews with local citizens. We can see in Figure 2 how citizens perceive the threats to personal health posed by soil and water contamination. However, concerning the fear of contracting a pollution-related illness, around 20,5% of respondents agree or strongly agree, while circa 43% strongly disagree or disagree.
Environmental pollution studies on the risk groups for lead, cadmium, and arsenic pollution have shown concentrations of pollutants in the human body that exceed the reference levels. The lead indicator - lead in the blood is the main parameter to indicate the concentration of lead in the human body - explains the increased incidence rates of specific morbidity in respiratory, digestive, renal, endocrine, and metabolic disease.