Air and noise pollution kills thousands of people every year in Spain. But, in addition, pollution peaks are associated with higher costs in hospital expenses due to the cardiovascular and respiratory diseases that trigger them. A study published in the scientific journal environmental research translated this effect to the community of Madrid based on hospitalization data for the period between 2013 and 2018. In emergency admissions alone, the article estimates the cost to the community at around 202 million euros a year, whose repeated poor air quality management was among the reasons Spain was condemned by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) last week. has been one of
That conviction currently does not carry a penalty. But if the pollution problem persists in the metropolitan area of Madrid and Barcelona (another cluster with systematic breaches of community rules), Brussels may once again condemn Spain and ask judges to sanction it financially, this time. Can say for “It would mean paying twice,” says Julio Díaz, a researcher at the Carlos III Health Institute’s National School of Public Health and coordinator of the study published in . environmental research, Because, as this air quality expert points out, pollution already has a high cost in human life and health costs.
Diaz and a team of researchers have now focused on this last aspect. They have calculated the economic impact of emergency entry during peak air and noise pollution. The community of Madrid is the first they have carried out this analysis, but the study is part of a project that aims to cover the whole country.
The authors compared emergency hospital admissions for respiratory and cardiovascular diseases with data on air pollution and noise pollution. And they have estimated the cost for each income. They conclude that nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) peaks in Madrid record an average of 8,246 emergency admissions annually, with an estimated cost of close to 120 million euros. To these are added 5,685 more incomes from noise pollution, which cost about 82 million. Although the study analyzed other substances such as ozone and suspended particles, the authors say that nitrogen dioxide and noise are “the main pollutants to which a large number of hospitals are attributed,” which they are also “responsible for” significant deterioration in the health of the population and the associated high economic impact”.
The article recalls that the effects of air pollution “on the respiratory system are well known, leading to exacerbations of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and an increased risk of developing lung cancer.” “In the circulatory system it causes coronary syndrome, cerebrovascular disease and heart failure,” say the authors. On the other hand, the World Health Organization “classifies noise pollution as one of the main environmental risks to health”, although there is less scientific literature than air pollution. “The most recent report from the European Environment Agency suggests that one in five Europeans is exposed to noise levels that could be seriously harmful to health”, of which “the risks of heart disease and obstructive pulmonary disease chronicle” , the article states.
The authors point out that, “Despite the fact that air quality control regulations have improved atmospheric conditions in recent years, levels of air pollutants remain high.” And they point to additional “hospital admissions” and “consequential loss of the population’s quality of life and great economic costs” as consequences. In the authors’ opinion, “it is necessary to update legal limits closer to levels recommended by the World Health Organization and to implement new public health policies that continue to protect the health of the entire population.” As the analysis indicated, “2,388 annual admissions due to natural causes due to NO₂ exposure could have been avoided if the thresholds established by WHO had been respected.”
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traffic and combustion vehicles
In the case of both air pollution and noise, says Diaz, there’s only one place to look when looking for causes: traffic and combustion vehicles, the main sources of pollution and noise. “Private vehicle traffic should be limited,” this researcher proposes as the main prescription. “No municipal official should allow a single person to die from contamination,” says Carmen Duce from Ecologistas en Axion.
Following the ruling by the European Union’s Court of Justice, Madrid City Council was quick to point out Manuela Carmena’s predecessor in office, although the ruling refers to management in the Spanish capital from 2010 to 2018. During that period they governed the city has two councilors of the PP—Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón and Ana Botella—besides Carmena. It added that the file that led to the conviction was kept in a drawer at the European Commission until the current councillor, the popular José Luis Martínez-Almeida, announced that his first measure after winning the election would be Madrid Central has to be cancelled. , the city’s low-emission zone. Following that announcement, Brussels reactivated the file against Spain, which it denounced before the CJEU.
Martínez-Almeida has ensured that Madrid will comply with the European Air Quality Directive in 2022, which establishes maximum risk levels that the capital has systematically exceeded since 2010. But those safety levels are now well above the community standard (40 micrograms per cubic meter of annual exposure) recommended by the WHO, which in its latest revision reduces them to 10 micrograms per cubic meter. Díaz warns, “It’s not enough to follow the law, you have to follow the health.”
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