Better air quality would prevent hundreds of deaths a year in Barcelona. In its 2019 annual report on pollution in the city, the municipal Public Health Agency estimates that it complies with the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding emissions – its limits were still exceeded last year – it would avoid 7% of the considered natural deaths. That is, around 1,000 deaths.
The recovery of traffic in Barcelona brings pollution closer to the levels prohibited by the EU
Pollution, according to a study by the Barcelona Public Health Agency, is also behind 33% of new cases of childhood asthma –more than 500 per year– and 11% of lung cancer diagnoses –110 per year. -. The results were presented at a press conference by the Councilor for Health of the council, Gemma Tarafa, accompanied by the director of Environmental Health of the ASPB, Elisenda Realp, and the researcher from the ISGLOBAL institute Jordi Sunyer.
“What this report tells us is that it is urgent, and that it is not for tomorrow or in the long term, to carry out interventions to reduce the burden of mortality and morbidity caused by pollution,” Sunyer said. All those present agreed that the most decisive action should be to reduce the use of private vehicles, the main emitter of pollutants, especially diesel with NO2. “Either we occupy the space that is now dedicated to the private vehicle or we will not get out of it,” said Sunyer.
By districts, the most affected is Eixample, where 23% of the natural mortality attributed to pollution is recorded. Not surprisingly, this district is the one that assumes the highest traffic load, with the main urban highways in the city. They are followed by Ciutat Vella, Gràcia and Sant Martí, all four above the average.
NO2 pollution is especially concentrated in the main transit nodes of the city. Thus, while levels higher than those recommended by the WHO affect 35% of the Barcelona population, 94% of the residents of Eixample are exposed to them. PM2.5 particles, on the other hand, have values above those recommended throughout Barcelona.
A novelty of the report is that it includes for the first time the impact of pollution in school environments. Thus, it estimates that 26% of the centers (about 30,000 boys and girls) are exposed to levels of NO2 above those recommended, and 50% of the schools are again in the Eixample district.
More public transport and fewer cars, the eternal recommendation
Some of the recommendations made by the study are the improvement of public transport, the restriction of private vehicles and the pacification of streets. Given the possibility that a congestion toll could be implemented, as the ASPB raises, Councilor Tarafa has remarked that it is “one more measure that is on the table” and that “it cannot be dismissed”, although she added that first there will be to see if the restrictions that are being applied now have any effect.
In order to reduce the impact on schools, the ASPB has proposed to reduce traffic around the centers, build new schools away from traffic, increase active mobility and public transportation of the school community, and ensure ventilation of classrooms. , among others.
Tarafa has insisted that the City Council is working to reduce these figures and recalled that for the moment interventions have already been made such as the application of Low Emission Zones, the reinforcement of public transport or superblocks, actions that, as has Remarked, they cannot be seen translated although in the report, which analyzes 2019. However, he recognized that the numbers “are what they are” and we must continue working.