The problem of pollution by the Brussels denounced Spain to the Court of Justice of the European Union almost a year ago persists: Madrid and the metropolitan area of Barcelona followed in breach in 2019 the legal limits of nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant closely linked to the vehicles of gasoline and diesel fuel. Both areas lead in breach of the european directive that sets those limits since we entered those values in 2010. The two main cities of the country adds to the metropolitan area of Granada as non-performing also in 2019 the limits of nitrogen dioxide, a compound harmful to humans that cause respiratory ailments and circulatory system and immune.
The closure enacted to combat the pandemic from march of this year made the traffic in the cities and the pollution levels to sink. “In these moments, these three zones are within the legal limits,” explains Miguel Angel Ceballos, of Ecologists in Action. “But the pollution is going to rebound,” warns the specialist in air quality. Ceballos fear that it is already “going back to the old ways” in the cities. The test will be in autumn, when it is expected to recover much of the economic activity and the weather conditions become conducive for shoot concentrations of pollutants.
Breaches year-to-year in Madrid and Barcelona may end up in a conviction, and sanction european as has already happened in other cases, such as the poor treatment of waste water, which has brought to Spain the largest fine in european history. Typically, in these processes are judged to be two times: the failures of the past and the persistence of those breaches, which imposed a fine fixed and the other variable, while the country would continue not to comply with the directive.
Although there are still years for the case of the pollution by nitrogen dioxide in these two Spanish cities come to that stage of conviction and punishment, which do show the data of 2019 is that the measures implemented until now have not been sufficient. “Madrid Central, which is a good initiative, affecting a minimum area,” says Ceballos, who has presented this Tuesday to the annual report of air quality in Spain of Ecologistas en Acción. “And the area of low emissions of Barcelona has not entered into force until the 1 of January and, although the surface is much larger, it is more lax in regard to the vehicles that are allowed to circulate”, he adds.
In general lines, and despite the persistent failure of Madrid, Barcelona and Granada, in the data of nitrogen dioxide can be seen an improvement in 2019, according to the report presented this Tuesday. The areas that do not comply with the european directive have gone from four to three, since the area of the Corredor del Henares yes broke last year those limits. But Ecologists in Action also discusses other pollutants, such as particulate matter (PM10 and PM2,5, sulphur dioxide and tropospheric ozone. “The overall result has been a slight improvement in the situation, with a smaller population and territory affected by the pollution”, pointing to this organization.
Ecologists in Action is performed in your report is an extrapolation of the population that was affected in 2019 in Spain for a air polluted by nitrogen dioxide, particles, sulphur dioxide and tropospheric ozone. If we take as reference the regulations of the European Union, “the people who breathed the polluted air above the legal limits was 12.5 million people, a quarter of the total, and 2.3 million affected less with respect to 2018”. But if you take as a reference the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), far more stringent than the legal thresholds in europe, the affected population in Spain would come to the 44.2 million people. Although it implies a decrease of a million people, 94% of the inhabitants of the country still lives in areas that in 2019 it failed to comply with these recommendations of the WHO.
The European Environment Agency estimates that each year are produced in Spain to 30,000 premature deaths by diseases linked to air pollution. And, according to a study by the Carlos III Institute of Health, 10,000 people die in episodes of high pollution, “as recorded at the end of February and June and mid-July of 2019,” said the report.