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Potentially harmful fumes released in Beirut blast have not reached Cyprus

The blast in Beirut has not affected the air quality in Cyprus for the time being, a senior official said on Wednesday.

The head of the labour ministry’s air quality department, Dr Chrysanthos Savvides, said toxic fumes from a huge blast in neighbouring Lebanon the previous day has not affected the island.

The Lebanese capital was rocked on Tuesday afternoon by an explosion that has killed at least 100 people and injured thousands more.

Authorities said blast was caused by around 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored at the city’s cargo port.

“Based on our most recent air measurements of nitrogen oxide in the air, which is the main and most dangerous pollutant produced by an ammonium nitrate explosion, the pollution in the air in Cyprus is not above the average for the time being,” Savvides told the Cyprus Mail.

“The reason is that at the moment of the blast, the wind in Beirut was blowing towards the north-east, so the polluting cloud produced … arrived in Syria and in certain parts of Turkey, rather than in Cyprus.

“Of course, the situation might change swiftly, depending on the direction and on the strength of the wind. That is why we are constantly measuring the levels of nitrogen oxide in the air,” he said.

Nitrogen dioxide is a red, foul-smelling gas. Images from Beirut showed a distinct reddish colour to the plume of gases from the blast.

Nitrogen oxides are commonly present in urban air pollution and can irritate the respiratory system. Elevated levels of these pollutants are particularly concerning for people with respiratory conditions.

The gases in Beirut will present a health risk to residents until they naturally dissipate, which could take several days depending on the local weather.

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