Although it is usually invisible, atmospheric pollution causes cancer and respiratory, cardiovascular, neurological and immunological illnesses. The World Health Organisation (WHO) confirms that millions of people die prematurely as a result of polluted air. It is therefore essential to have optimal air quality, so that people's health is not negatively affected.
What causes air pollution?
There are many natural sources which cannot be controlled, such as the Saharan dust clouds that occasionally cross the Mediterranean. But Barcelona's pollution mainly comes from motorised transport and, to a lesser extent, industrial activities.
Millions of motorised-vehicle journeys take place every day in Barcelona and its metropolitan area, which all contribute to raising air pollution levels through exhaust fumes. The biggest polluters are the vehicles with diesel engines, especially the older ones. Vehicles also release harmful particles that come from road surfaces, tyres and brakes. It is estimated that over 60% of nitrogen dioxide, which is one of the most dangerous pollutants in Barcelona's air, comes from this daily vehicle traffic.
Industrial activities, mainly construction work, generate a lot of suspended particles, which are very dangerous pollutants when breathed in. Air and sea transport have increased exponentially in recent years. Even so, there is no data to indicate that Prat Airport and Barcelona Port' s increased activity has led to increased pollution over the whole metropolitan area.
Why doesn't pollution disperse easily?
To a large extent, the accumulation of pollutant gases and particles depends on the weather. Logically, when there is abundant rain, toxic gases and suspended particles end up in the sewer system and the atmosphere becomes clean. By contrast, if there is no rain or wind for many days, the air gradually becomes charged and can reach air pollution levels that are dangerous to everyone's health.
How can air quality be improved?
The only truly effective way is to reduce the number of vehicles entering, leaving and travelling around the city, while also ensuring that those vehicles generate as little pollution as possible. We need to promote safer, fairer, more sustainable and more efficient mobility that enables the general public to carry on as usual while reducing their ecological footprint. This is the path that now being taken by big cities such as London and Paris, which are establishing measures to bring about a reduction in the number of vehicles there.
Municipal regulations against air pollution
In November 2016 the Barcelona City Council presented the Government Measure Programme of anti-air pollution measures, including structural measures and extraordinary measures to deal with occasional episodes.
In high pollution episodes by NO2 or PM10 the City Council of Barcelona activates the Protocol for high levels of atmospheric pollution in the city of Barcelona, approved in December 2017, which is included in the Basic Municipal Emergency Plan.The Protocol regulates and defines the municipal measures to be adopted. More information
Previously the Barcelona City Council has already launched the Urban Mobility Plan for safe, sustainable, equitable and efficient mobility, and the Air Quality Improvement Plan, a document that includes all the initiatives, plans and measures aimed at reducing air pollution levels in the city up to 2018. Port of Barcelona and Prat Airport, two of the city's crucial infrastructures, have been working to implement measures that reduce pollution.
Pollution in Barcelona