Breathe: Environmental quality, air and health

We are aware of the air we breathe? We can do something?

In Barcelona, ​​the perception of most people is that air quality is hazardous to your health, in contrast, a minority takes action to protect themselves or sought information.

But this perception is real? According to data from the monitoring network of air pollution in Barcelona permitted levels of contamination both for the European Union, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) are exceeded.

Some of the gaseous pollutants in the atmosphere of Barcelona are nitrogen oxides (carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide), of which, with respect to European levels, the city falls within the limits, but not within those set by WHO, which far exceed.

Nitrogen oxides are polluting gases from human activity, particularly of diesel combustion. This fact shows that, in large cities, the main source of air pollution is private motorized vehicle.

So Air pollution has an impact on health?

According to WHO data, there are half of deaths each year due to air pollution, duplicate data traffic fatalities 3 million.

Specifically, nitrogen oxides cause irritation of the respiratory system and eye, as well as slower children and onset of chronic lung development and cerebrovascular diseases. These effects are compounded in risk groups such as children, the elderly and people with health problems like asthma and heart and lung diseases are.

CREAL (Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology) conducted a study in some schools in the city which shows that in those centers where the pollution level is higher, the level of mental growth for a year is less than in those schools with less contamination. Moreover, it has been observed that less contaminated schools correspond to those located in green area, and thanks are spaces freed from the occupation of the cars, and therefore fall further from the emission sources.

How can we act?

First, we must be aware that regulatory measures must be taken at the political level, structural measures at the level of management and behavioral changes at the level of citizenship.

And so there is a good risk communication, reduce it and protect us. Ie, give a clear and understandable information to the public, so that we can reduce the impact of pollution, while protecting us.

And to start, reduce the use of private cars in favor of public transport (fast and economic) and bicycle.

In addition, WHO recommends increasing areas dedicated to green spaces, as they will be areas not occupied by motorized traffic, where new emissions will be avoided. These green areas should place them around schools and hospitals and nursing homes, mainly because it has been shown to improve health and wellness. Without forgetting, that green spaces muffle pollution, but not reduced if we do not reduce the volume of the issue.

As for bicycle traffic or playing sport, for its minimizing the risk, it should be placed 10 meters from sources of pollution, as is the minimum distance that a considerable reduction of pollution is observed. As the structure of the city we would not allow in most cases, it is necessary therefore to search the streets with little or no traffic whenever possible.

Also, the implementation of measures to reduce pollution become a business opportunity, for example, change the older more environmentally friendly cars, generating an economic movement, and thus promote a clean atmosphere can be also economically advantageous.

In short ... we could not go without water or food, therefore, we can deny us the right to clean air?