December 3, 2020

Excess air pollution causes a thousand deaths a year in Barcelona


General view of Barcelona.

General view of Barcelona.

A thousand natural deaths, 525 cases of childhood asthma and 110 lung cancers last year in Barcelona are the result of the fact that in 2019 the contamination in the air of the city exceed the limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

These figures are some of those collected by the Barcelona Air Quality Report 2019 They have presented this Monday the Councilor for Health and president of the Barcelona Public Health Agency (ASPB), Gemma Tarafa; and the director of Environmental Health of the ASPB, Elisenda Realp.

According to the latest report on the exposure of the population to air pollution and its impact on the health of the people of Barcelona, ​​which is produced annually by the Barcelona Public Health Agency (ASPB), excess pollution causes 7% of natural deaths in Barcelona, a percentage that rises to 23% in the case of Eixample, the district with the worst air quality and the most densely populated in the city.

The report notes that exceeding the WHO recommendations causes 1 in 3 new cases of childhood asthma and 1 in 9 cases of Cancer lung in Barcelona. It also estimates that 1 in 4 schools in the city is exposed to NO2 levels above the legal limit (40 mg / m3), especially in the Eixample district

“All the data leads us to say that pollution is the first public health problem we have in the city and that we must work to reverse it “, has warned councilor Tarafa.

In this sense, Gemma Tarafa has indicated that this report does not yet quantify the impact of the interventions that have been carried out this year 2020 to reduce the levels of NO2 and PM2.5 microparticles in the air of Barcelona, ​​whose effects will be reflected in the next study.

Among them, the Low Emissions Zone Rounds, the protection of schools, the reinforcement of public transport and superblocks and the closure of some important streets to traffic on the weekend.

The director of Environmental Health of the ASPB, Elisenda realp, who presented the report, explained that 35% of the city’s population is exposed to NO2 levels above the legal limit, while 100% of the citizens are exposed to PM2 levels five times above the WHO guideline value.

As exposure to NO2 is closely linked to traffic and tends to increase in neighborhoods where people with a favored socioeconomic level live, the report concludes that Eixample is the most affected district, with 94% of its neighbors exposed to levels above the legal limit.

Realp has claimed “to bet heavily on the traffic reduction “, both in public policies and in personal habits. In the same sense, the ISGlobal researcher Jordi Sunyer has spoken, who has also participated in the presentation and who has urged to intervene forcefully in mobility and urban planning.

“What this report tells us is that it is urgent in the short term to make interventions to reduce the burden of mortality and morbidity“Sunyer pointed out.

He pointed out that Barcelona is the city with the highest traffic density in Europe, with 6,000 cars per square meter, and sacrifices are required so that there are fewer and not to remain in the 20th century.

For Sunyer, that excess air pollution causes 7% of annual deaths in the city “is an astronomical figure” and that it represents 20% of the mortality of Eixample residents, “stratospheric”.

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