Compliance with WHO pollution levels would prevent at least 250 deaths a year in the city

Data recorded between 1996 and 2016 by the Barcelona Public Health Agency (ASPB) confirm a clear correlation between peak pollution periods and an increase in both short-term and long-term health problems. The report concludes that at least 250 deaths and almost 1,500 instances of hospitalisation would be avoided if the pollution limits recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) were achieved. Reducing traffic which pollutes the most is essential for improving air quality. Restrictions on vehicles without the sticker issued by the Spanish Directorate General of Traffic (DGT) will come into effect on 1 December and be enforced when a nitrogen dioxide pollution episode is declared.

The study looked at the eleven measuring stations in the city, as well as mortality rates, hospitalisations and visits to accident and emergency services. In order to get even more accurate figures, these indicators were crossed with other variants such as temperature, day of the week, season, soy allergen levels and the presence of flu epidemics.

Pollution, a question of health

The air quality evaluation report for the city of Barcelona 2016, also conducted by the ASPB, had already shown that 95% of the city population is potentially exposed to annual levels of particulate matter above those recommended by the WHO, a situation which also affects 68% of citizens in the case of nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

According to all the indicators, air pollution is a serious health problem which not only worsens the effects of cardiovascular illnesses, asthma and other respiratory conditions, but also has links with lung cancer, diabetes, the slowing of foetal growth, premature death and cognitive effects in child development.

Pollution episodes increase mortality

Although pollution in Barcelona is a year-round phenomenon and has ongoing effects for the population, the analysis shows that episodes clearly have a negative effect on health. For instance, the mortality rate went up by 40% during the four days the particulate matter (PM10) episode lasted in February 2016.

Traffic restrictions

In order to improve air quality it is therefore essential to reduce traffic, particularly vehicles which pollute the most. As from 1 December, when a nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution episode is declared, traffic will be restricted in low emissions zones and vehicles without the DGT sticker will not be allowed to circulate. That means petrol-driven cars manufactured before the year 2000 and diesel cars from before 2006, as well as vans registered before October 1994.

For the time being, lorries, coaches, motorcycles, buses and Euro 1, Euro 2 and Euro 3 vans will be exempt from the restrictions. Emergency vehicles and those used by people with reduced mobility will always be able to circulate regardless of whether they have a DGT sticker, as will essential services.

A special operation by the City Police will work to ensure the restrictions are complied with and will check vehicle stickers by number plates. To check the environmental sticker which corresponds to your vehicle use this number plate search.

Boost for public transport

During NO2 pollution episodes, public transport will be operated at maximum capacity and the T-aire ticket system will be activated. The T-verda ticket has also been available since 2 October and offers unlimited use of public transport for a three year period for citizens who scrap a polluting vehicle and do not buy another.