The World Health Organization (WHO) it is very clear that the atmospheric pollution it represents the greatest environmental risk to human health in the European Union. Not in vain, it is the cause of some 400,000 premature deaths in Europe every year, to which must be added the enormous amount of diseases that many people – the elderly are more prone to – the fact of breathing polluted air at all times.
According to this organization, this mortality figure is ten times higher than that reported by the traffic accidents. From Ecologists in Action (@ecologists) further point out that “the Economic cost of premature mortality and lost working days due to ambient air pollution and indoor air pollution has been quantified by the World Bank at 38,000 million euros in 2013, equivalent to 3.5% of Gross Domestic Product Spanish (GDP), without considering the damage caused to crops, natural ecosystems or other assets of any nature ”.
Obviously, those who live in the big cities they are the ones most at risk, since the contamination is more pronounced. Not surprisingly, in many cities the anti-pollution protocols when the air quality falls below a minimum that can be very dangerous to health. These limits are set by the rules that both the governments of each country and the European Union itself have approved.
With regard to the norms that the European Union has promulgated regarding the suspended particle limit and their size, are listed in the 2008 directive on ambient air quality (called 2008/50 / CE), which came to join the 1996 Framework Directive on the assessment and management of ambient air quality (96/62 / CE).
This is a good example of the concern on the continent regarding environmental pollution. In fact, it is perhaps one of the places in the world most aware of this problem that, if not addressed, will cause very serious problems in habitability from many areas of the planet.
The blissful particles
Stopping at polluting particles which are measured to delimit air quality, it should be noted that they have the handicap that it is not something visible as it is the plastic debris that accumulates in the sea, for example. Beyond the famous “beret” that can be seen over cities at times, human beings cannot see environmental pollution, so you have to trust the meters and the decisions that the authorities must make in order not to exceed the limit.
This, by the way, has to be placed in a mean annual concentration of 10 μg / m3 or less when we talk about the PM2.5 particles, the most dangerous, as recommended by the WHO. However, most cities exceed 35 μg / m3.
What are PM2.5 particles?
When people talk to you about air pollution, you will generally hear two measures: PM10 and PM2.5. These refer to the diameter of the polluting particles. The former occupy 10 microns or less and have the ability to reach our lungs and stay there with the negative consequences that this entails for health.
However, the most dangerous are those with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less, since these can also get into the bloodstream, multiplying the possibilities of suffering from both respiratory and cardiac diseases. For this reason, the WHO ruled in 2005 that human beings should avoid being exposed to medium levels of PM2.5 that exceed 25 micrograms per cubic meter of air for 24 hours.
Pollution in Europe and Spain
The European Environment Agency placed in a worrying 90% of the population of the Old Continent that is exposed to “concentrations of atmospheric pollutants at high levels considered harmful to health”. And it also refers to how they can harm health. “It is estimated that the fine particles (PM2.5) present in the atmosphere reduce life expectancy in the EU by more than eight months. Benzo (a) pyrene is a carcinogenic pollutant of great concern and whose concentrations exceed the limit established to protect human health in several urban areas, especially in Central and Eastern Europe ”.
The situation in Spain it is also far from ideal. Not in vain, according to Annual air quality report of Ecologistas en Acción, in the year 2018 97% of the population and 92% of the Spanish territory they exceeded the contamination levels recommended by the World Health Organization. Of course, at least there was a reduction in the levels of atmospheric pollution by suspended particles, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide.