The tons of rubbish that recently littered Athens’s streets due to a strike by landfill workers were more than an eyesore to residents, according to a university study which found that roadside dumpsters that have not been emptied for days produce toxic gases able to cause breathing disorders and even heart problems.
A study conducted by the National Technical University of Athens, and obtained by Kathimerini, showed that if rubbish bins are not emptied on a daily basis, they become a serious health threat to residents.
Decaying household waste can create chemical by-products that have been connected to causing cancer, the study warned. Among the large array of substances created by rotting rubbish are other chemicals that are considered responsible for gastroenteritis, nausea and breathing problems.
“When the rubbish is collected on a daily basis there is no threat to public health. During strikes, gases are released from the trash piles which turn the bins into a danger area,” said Associate Professor Miltiadis Statheropoulos.
The findings come shortly after multiple tons of rubbish mounted on Athens’s streets over an eight-day period when workers at the city’s only landfill went on strike.
Rubbish piles reached more than a meter high in many residential areas, spilling out onto roads and sidewalks. The study also found that toxic gases released by the decaying rubbish are often at levels that can pose further health risks. The problem escalates depending on weather conditions, dampness levels and the contents of the rubbish.