Reducing pollution to 2020 levels would prevent 600 deaths in Barcelona every year
Childhood asthma would drop by 19% while lung cancer would decrease by 5%
Bringing pollution levels down to those seen in 2020, largely thanks to the effects of Covid-19 lockdowns as well as a drop in non-essential travel, would prevent 600 deaths in Barcelona every year.
According to the Barcelona Public Health Agency's (ASPB) latest report on air quality in the Catalan capital, which was presented on Monday, there would also be 19% fewer cases of childhood asthma and lung cancer would decrease by 5% amongst the population.
Mobility restrictions have had an "unprecedented" impact on air quality levels, said Barcelona's councilor for health, Gemma Tarafa, and the data backs these claims: 2020 was the first year all of the city's weather stations reported nitrogen dioxide levels below the thresholds set by both the European Union and the World Health Organizations.
On average, exposure to nitrogen dioxide dropped by 28%, thereby complying with EU and international guidelines. This decrease was particularly prominent in the Eixample, Ciutat Vella, and Sant Martí districts.
"With every 10-microgram decrease in NO2, we have 5% drops in childhood asthma incidence rates," ASPB director Elisenda Realp explained.
In 2020 there were also fewer particles, which dropped to levels acceptable by EU standards but not those of the WHO.
Pollution, the municipal council, and ASPB argue, "is a public health issue that is of crucial importance," which is why they believe policy and lifestyle changes are warranted to keep levels low.
"2020 was a very difficult year, but when it comes to pollution levels, the effects were clear," Tarafa said. "This strengthens our belief in the need to continue working towards these goals."