Oslo: Smoke from forest fires smothering Moscow adds to health problems of "brown clouds" from Asia to the Amazon and Russian soot may stoke global warming by hastening a thaw of Arctic ice, environmental experts say.
"Health effects of such clouds are huge," said Veerabhadran Ramanathan, chair of a UN Environment Programme (UNEP) study of "brown clouds" blamed for dimming sunlight in cities such as Beijing or New Delhi and hitting crop growth in Asia.
Kim Holmen, director of research at the Norwegian Polar Institute, who runs a pollution monitoring station in Svalbard in the high Arctic said the air over Russia was fairly stable in recent days, concentrating smoke over land. But a shift in winds, easing pollution in Moscow, could sweep smog northwards.
Holmen also echoed Russian authorities` worries the fires may also release radioactive elements locked in vegetation since Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986. Radioactive isotopes include strontium 90 and caesium 137. Other pollutants such as PCBs could also be freed.