1482895473375Forget Beijing, world’s worst air has Mongolians seeing red Levels of particulate matter in the air have risen to almost 80 times the recommended safety level set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) – and five times worse than Beijing during the past week’s bout with the worst smog of the year.

cruise-pollution-siegerbild_2012-largeAir Quality on cruise ships ’20 times worse’ than in a busy city centre Passengers on a cruise ship could be inhaling “60 times higher concentrations of harmful air pollutants ” than they would in natural air settings, Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU), a German environmental association, has warned.


pollution2Air pollution may lead to dementia in older women Tiny particles that pollute the air — the kind that come mainly from power plants and automobiles — may greatly increase the chance of dementia, including dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease, according to USC-led research.

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Revealed: thousands of children at London schools breathe toxic air 

Exclusive: 802 schools, nurseries and colleges are in areas where levels of nitrogen dioxide breach EU legal limits

Tens of thousands of children at more than 800 schools, nurseries and colleges in London are being exposed to illegal levels of air pollution that risk causing lifelong health problems, the Guardian can disclose.

A study identifies 802 educational institutions where pupils as young as three are being exposed to levels of nitrogen dioxide that breach EU legal limits and which the government accepts are harmful to health.

The research, commissioned by the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, suggests thousands more children and young people are at risk from toxic air than previously thought.

Khan said the results were devastating and warned that it was the capital’s poorest children who were bearing the brunt of the air pollution crisis.

“It is an outrage that more than 800 schools, nurseries and other educational institutions are in areas breaching legal air pollution limits,” he said.

“This is an environmental challenge, a public health challenge but also – and no one talks about this – it is fundamentally an issue of social justice. If you are a poor Londoner you are more likely to suffer from illegal air.”

Khan called for the government to introduce a clean air act and for a diesel scrappage scheme to take polluting cars off the road quickly.

The results show nearly double the number of schools than previously thought are affected by illegal levels of toxic air. A report that was kept secret by former mayor Boris Johnson revealed last year 433 primaries were exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution.

The new data shows 802 out of 3261 nurseries, primary and secondary schools and higher education colleges, are within 150 metres of nitrogen dioxide pollution levels that exceed the EU legal limit of 40µg/m3 (40 micrograms per cubic metre of air).

A third of state nursery schools in the capital (27), nearly 20% of primaries (360) and 18% of secondary schools (79) are in areas where toxic levels of nitrogen dioxide threaten children’s health. Of the further education colleges in the capital, 43% (30) were in areas of illegally toxic levels of NO2.

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Traffic is a major contributor to air pollution and there is growing concern about emissions from diesel vehicles, which contribute through the production of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides (NOx).

Dr Francis Gilchrist, consultant respiratory paediatrician at Royal Stoke University hospital, said it was known that children were particularly sensitive to air pollution and that lung damage had lifelong consequences.

“If something is not done about air pollution these issues are going to get worse and worse. There is definitely concern that air pollution is affecting children’s lungs – in particular it exacerbates respiratory illness, like asthma, and it predisposes children who are healthy to having repeated chest infections,” he said.

“If you damage your lungs in childhood you are likely to see these effects right through into adulthood, so there is a lifelong impact.”

Khan hopes the introduction of what he says is the world’s first ultra-low emission zone will cut toxic NO2 emissions from diesel vehicles by 50%. He plans to extend the zone to the north and south circular roads in the capital and has brought its introduction forward a year to 2019.

Last week he announced that drivers of older, more polluting cars will have to pay a £10 charge to drive in central London from October.

But other cities – including Paris, Athens and Madrid – have announced more dramatic measures, introducing car-free days and bans on diesel cars from city boundaries.

Khan said he had not ruled anything out. “We are evaluating the success of other cities. We are looking at their plans and nothing is off the table. But at the moment we think our plans are the most effective.”

London is not alone in the UK in facing an air pollution crisis. Khan and the leaders of four other cities badly affected by poor air quality – Leeds, Birmingham, Derby and Nottingham – had written to the government calling on them to do more to tackle the problem across the UK.

“It must be the case that air quality in other cities is having a similar impact and that it is worse in the most deprived parts of those cities. It must impact on schools in the same way, but they do not have the information that is now available in London. The government must take action,” he said.

The new research on schools, nurseries and colleges was based on modelling of data from 2013 carried out by experts from the environmental research group at King’s College London and Aether, the environmental data analysts.

The modelling is more precise than the government’s measurements, which the high court has condemned as overoptimistic.


Judges told ministers last November they must cut the illegal levels of NO2 in dozens of towns and cities in the shortest possible time after ruling their plans to improve air quality were so poor they were unlawful.

The government has until April to come up with proposals to bring before the court.

The study adds to the pressure on ministers to tackle air pollution amid growing evidence of a toxic air crisis in parts of the UK. London breached its annual air pollution limits just five days into 2017.

Last month Khan issued the first “very high” air pollution alert with warnings displayed at bus stops, train stations and road signs across the capital.

This year Khan gave £250,000 to fund 50 air quality audits at the worst affected primary schools. The money will allow schools to work with local councils to introduce measures to protect pupils from toxic air and could include banning the most polluting cars at drop-off and pick-up time, clean air routes for walking to school, green barriers and moving entrances away from busy roads.

Air pollution causes up to 50,000 early deaths – 9,000 of these in the capital – and costs the country £27.5bn each year, according to a government estimate. MPs have called it a public health emergency.

Khan is calling for ministers to introduce a comprehensive diesel scrappage scheme to compensate drivers who bought diesel cars after being told they were more environmentally friendly than petrol vehicles. He also wants the government to introduce a clean air act “fit for the 21st century”.

“Today people scratch their heads that 30 or 40 years ago we knew smoking was bad for your health but no action was taken,” he said. “I don’t want a situation now where in 20 or 30 years’ time our children or grandchildren say knew about air quality but no action was taken.

“I want London to be the envy of the world in relation to air quality, to be the greenest city in the world.”

‘Some days it makes me consider leaving London’

The playground at Tachbrook nursery school in Pimlico, west London, has lots to keep a three-year-old happy at breaktime.

But, like other schools highlighted in the report, it is very close to a busy main road. HGVs, cars, taxis and buses plough up and down the Embankment nearby, and so the school is subject to NO2 pollution levels above EU legal limits.

Headteacher Elizabeth Hillyard said she had signed a petition along with other headteachers in the capital urging more to be done about toxic air.

“Air pollution has bad effects on health and it needs to be addressed and all the heads in Westminster have signed the petition,” she said.

Like other schools, Tachbrook does what it can to protect children, including having a fence around the playground. Kate Lyons, a parent collecting her three-year-old son, said the issue was a concern.

“We are generally concerned about the air in this area,” Lyons said. “You can feel it and taste it. My little boy loves playing in the playground at school, and it does worry me.

“We live nearby and sleep with our windows closed because of the pollution. We used to live in Edinburgh and you can feel the difference living here in London and some days it is something that makes me consider leaving.”

Source: Revealed: thousands of children at London schools breathe toxic air | UK news | The Guardian

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Children at Nearly 8,000 U.S. Public Schools Breathe Highly Polluted Air 

Roughly one in every 11 public schools in the U.S. sits within 500 feet of highways and other heavily trafficked roads, exposing 4.4 million students to high levels of toxic air pollution. The data is the result of a new investigationby the Center for Public Integrity and Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.

Breathing air with high levels of particulate matter has been shown to stunt lung growth, trigger asthma, increase the risk of cancer, and damage learning capability in children. California banned the construction of new schools within 500 feet of busy roads in 2003, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has urged school districts to carefully consider air pollution risks since 2011. But according to reporting by CPI and Reveal, nearly one in five U.S. schools that opened in the 2014-2015 academic year were built in high-traffic areas.

“The expectation of every parent is that they’re sending their child to a safe environment,” George Thurston, a population-health professor at the New York University School of Medicine, told the Center for Public Integrity. “And with this kind of pollution, they’re not.”

Source: Children at Nearly 8,000 U.S. Public Schools Breathe Highly Polluted Air – Yale E360

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Proposed fireplace bylaw prohibits burning wet timber, high sulphur coal

About 75,000 Auckland households will need to be careful about how they use their fireplaces under newly proposed burning restrictions.

On Thursday Auckland councillors discussed a draft air quality bylaw for indoor fires which would ban the burning of wet timber and certain types of coal.

The proposed bylaw comes after another proposed bylaw that would have banned all domestic open fireplaces was canned in 2015.

Auckland Council’s manager of social policy and bylaws Michael Sinclair said the new bylaw would not force people to stop using indoor open fires.

Instead, if the bylaw goes ahead it will prohibit burning high-sulphur coal and damp timber that produces a lot of smoke or causes a nuisance to neighbours.

Auckland has about 58,000 old pre-2005 wood burners in homes and 17,000 open fireplaces.

The proposal for the bylaw comes after a “regulatory gap” appeared with the creation of Auckland’s unitary plan.

In Thursday’s meeting councillors Wayne Walker and Chris Darby raised the issue of premature deaths caused by wood fires and questioned why information about that was not going to be included in the proposal.

“These are health issues and particularly the elderly and young are extremely vulnerable,” Darby said.

A report given to Auckland Council in 2012 said air pollution was responsible for 200 premature deaths a year. Motor vehicles and domestic fires are considered the two largest sources of air pollution in Auckland.

Darby said he didn’t think the bylaw went far enough.

“I don’t think it is good enough to have open fires belching stuff into the neighbourhood and killing people.”

Councillor Christine Fletcher said her problem with the bylaw was that it was 35 pages when she said the information could have been fitted into a single page.

Sinclair said the bylaw was 35 pages because of the complicated nature of redefining urban areas because of unitary plan changes.

Councillor Daniel Newman said regardless of air quality his first priority was that people remained warm.

“The most important need is for people to be warm and dry in winter.”

The proposed bylaw was adopted and will go to public consultation.

Council wants the bylaw to be in action by winter this year.

Source: Proposed fireplace bylaw prohibits burning wet timber, high sulphur coal |

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City Living Is Ruining Your Sense Of Smell, Scientist Warns 

City living is destroying our sense of smell, driving up consumption of salty foods and causing obesity rates to soar, according to a leading scientist.

Dr Kara Hoover, an expert in olfactory evolution, said that air pollution was to blame for the impairment and that it showed no sign of abating.

As the global population continues to urbanise, more people will be exposed to pollutants, Dr Hoover warned.

Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Durham University scientist said people with a poor sense of smell were more likely to be obese as they opted for richer meals.

“Our sense of smell evolved in a very rich landscape in which we were interacting regularly with the environment,” the Telegraph reported Hoover as saying. “Now today we’re not interacting with the environment and we’re in very polluted places.”

A poor sense of smell has been linked to anxiety and depression, with sufferers fearing they can’t smell their body odour or dangers such as gas or smoke.

Hoover also spoke of “sensory inequities” with people living near factories and mines most at risk of diminished sense of smell, the AAAS said in a statement.

The academic called for the creation of pollution-free spaces in cities which draw people outside.

“We’re not going to leave buildings, we’re not going to leave our computers, we’re not going to abandon that, so we need to actually create environments that engage us with the outdoors and also that, when we go outside, we’re not in a polluted space,” Hoover said.

The warning comes after the European Commission issued the government with its “final warning for breaching legal pollution limits.

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has since announced a Toxicity Charge taxing the oldest most polluting cars in central London from October.

But critics have questioned the effectiveness of the measure, which is expected to affect just 7 per cent of cars entering the heart of the capital.

Source: City Living Is Ruining Your Sense Of Smell, Scientist Warns | The Huffington Post

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German city bans older diesel cars to combat air pollution

Authorities in southwest Germany are banning older diesel cars from driving in the city of Stuttgart starting next year.

The measure is intended to reduce levels of fine particulate matter found in diesel emissions that are harmful to human health.

Stuttgart, capital of Baden-Wuerttemberg state, regularly reports particulate levels far above the permitted levels. Its location in a bowl-shaped valley makes the city with almost 600,000 inhabitants particularly prone to persistent air pollution .

The measure was passed Tuesday by Baden-Wuerttemberg’s state government, a coalition of the environmentalist Green Party and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union.

It means only diesel cars that meet the Euro 6 emissions standard for light passenger and commercial vehicles can drive in the city from 2018.

Stuttgart is home to German automakers Mercedes-Benz and Porsche.

Source: diesel cars: German city bans older diesel cars to combat air pollution, Auto News, ET Auto

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From Oslo to Paris, these major cities have plans to go car-free

Oslo is one of 12 cities which plans to phase out cars in the near future.

In late 2016, Madrid’s Mayor Manuela Carmena reiterated her plan to kick personal cars out of the city center.

On Spanish radio network Cadena Ser, she confirmed that Madrid’s main avenue, the Gran Vía, will only allow access to bikes, buses, and taxis before she leaves office in May 2019. It’s part of a larger effort to ban all diesel cars in Madrid by 2025.

But the Spanish city is not the only one getting ready to take the car-free plunge. Urban planners and policy makers around the world have started to brainstorm ways that cities can create more space for pedestrians and lower CO2 emissions from diesel.

Here are 12 cities leading the car-free movement.

Oslo will implement its car ban by 2019.

Oslo plans to permanently ban all cars from its city center by 2019 — six years before Norway’s country-wide ban would go into effect.

The Norwegian capital will invest heavily in public transportation and replace 35 miles of roads previously dominated by cars with bike lanes.

“The fact that Oslo is moving forward so rapidly is encouraging, and I think it will be inspiring if they are successful,” says Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, an organization that supports bikers in New York City and advocates for car-free cities.

Madrid’s planned ban is even more extensive.

Madrid plans to ban cars from 500 acres of its city center by 2020, with urban planners redesigning 24 of the city’s busiest streets for walking rather than driving.

The initiative is part of the city’s “sustainable mobility plan,” which aims to reduce daily car usage from 29% to 23%. Drivers who ignore the new regulations will pay a fine of at least $100. And the most polluting cars will pay more to park.

“In neighborhoods, you can do a lot with small interventions,” Mateus Porto and Verónica Martínez, who are both architects and urban planners from the local pedestrian advocacy group A PIE, told Fast Company. “We believe that regardless of what the General Plan says about the future of the city, many things can be done today, if there is political will.”

People in Chengdu will be able to walk anywhere in 15 minutes or less.

Chicago-based architects Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill designed a new residential area for the Chinese city. The layout makes it easier to walk than drive, with streets designed so that people can walk anywhere in 15 minutes.

While Chengdu won’t completely ban cars, only half the roads in the 80,000-person city will allow vehicles. The firm originally planned to make this happen by 2020, but zoning issues are delaying the deadline.

Hamburg is making it easier not to drive.

The German city plans to make walking and biking its dominant mode of transport. Within the next two decades, Hamburg will reduce the number of cars by only allowing pedestrians and bikers to enter certain areas.

The project calls for a gruenes netz, or a “green network,” of connected spaces that people can access without cars. By 2035, the network will cover 40% of Hamburg and will include parks, playgrounds, sports fields, and cemeteries.

Bikes continue to rule the road in Copenhagen.

Today, over half of Copenhagen’s population bikes to work every day, thanks to the city’s effort to introduce pedestrian-only zones starting in the 1960s. The Danish capital now boasts more than 200 miles of bike lanes and has one of the lowest percentages of car ownership in Europe.

The latest goal is to build a superhighway for bikes that will stretch to surrounding suburbs. The first of 28 planned routes opened in 2014, and 11 more will be completed by the end of 2018. The city has also pledged to become completely carbon-neutral by 2025.

Paris will ban diesel cars and double the number of bike lanes.

When Paris banned cars with even-numbered plates for a day in 2014, pollution dropped by 30%. Now, the city wants to discourage cars from driving in the city center at all.

As of July 2016, all drivers with cars made before 1997 are not permitted to drive in the city center on weekdays. If they do, they will be fined, though they can drive there freely on the weekends.

The mayor says Paris also plans to double its bike lanes and limit select streets to electric cars by 2020. The city also continues to make smaller, short-term efforts to curb emissions — its first car-free day was in 2015, and it instated a car-free Sundays rule in May 2016.

Athens is also joining the diesel ban.

In December 2016, Athens, Greece announced it will ban diesel cars from the city center by 2025.

The initiative serves as an attempt to improve the city’s air quality. Athens already restricts diesel vehicles from the city center on certain days based on their plate numbers, but Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis says his goal is to eventually remove all cars from the area.

London will charge you for congestion.

Just like Paris, the mayor of London says the city will ban diesel cars by 2020.

Currently, the city discourages the use of diesel engines in some areas of the city by charging a fee of $12.50 per day for diesel cars that enter during peak hours. They call it a “congestion charge.”

“London is already talking about an ultra low emission zone, banning all sorts of diesel vehicles,” Stephen Joseph from the Campaign for Better Transport toldThe Telegraph. “This is not unlikely that they will be banned altogether in the same way Paris has done.”

Brussels features the largest car-free area in Europe.

Most streets that surround Brussels’ city square, stock exchange, and Rue Neuve (a major shopping street) have always been pedestrian-only. The roads make up the second largest car-free zone in Europe, behind Copenhagen.

In 2002, Brussels launched its first “Mobility Week,” which was meant to encourage public transportation over private transport. And for one day this September, all cars will be banned from the entire city center.

The city is looking for more ways to expand its car-free zones — one proposal would turn a popular four-lane boulevard into a pedestrian-only area. In February 2016, Brussels announced that diesel cars made prior to 1998 will be banned starting in 2018.

Mexico City hopes to ban about two million cars from the city center.

In April 2016, Mexico City’s local government decided to prohibit a portion of cars from driving into the city center two days every work week and two Saturdays per month. It determines which cars can drive on a given day using a rotating system based on license plate numbers.

According to the Associated Press, the policy applies to an estimated two million cars and helps to mitigate the city’s high smog levels.

Vancouver is giving more street space to bikes and pedestrians.

While many of the aforementioned cities have enforced car bans, Vancouver has persuaded an increasing number of residents to commute by public transport.

As Citylab notes, people in Vancouver take half of all trips by foot, bike, bus, or subway as of 2015. This is considerably more than any US city of comparable size, including Seattle (21%) and Philadelphia (27%), according to a 2015 United Nations report.

The city’s car-free movement might have been spawned by urban design decisions, according to the nonprofit Streetfilms, which recently interviewed key planning officials. Efforts include turning part of a major avenue, called Granville Street, into a pedestrian mall in the 1970s and expanding the bike lane network in 2008.

The city also hosts a car-free day every June, when it bans cars from busy blocks and sets up a street festivals.

New York City is decreasing car traffic in small doses.

Though New York City isn’t planning a car ban anytime soon, it is increasing the number of pedestrian areas, along with bike share, subway, and bus options.

Strips of land in popular areas like Times Square, Herald Square, and Madison Square Park are permanently pedestrian-only. On three Saturdays in August 2016, hundreds of thousands of people will take advantage of Summer Streets, an annual event that prohibits cars from driving on a major thoroughfare connecting Central Park to the Brooklyn Bridge, and opens roads for pedestrians.

“This is what everyday life could look like as if people mattered,” says Paul Steely White. “The worst thing as an urban dweller is to be stuck with the auto as your only option.”

Transportation Alternatives also hopes to work with the city to create more pedestrian plazas. White says urban planners are no longer trying to optimize New York City and other places for drivers, and are instead thinking about cities differently.

“Cities are coming to the realization that they need to swing the pendulum the other way,” he says.

Source: From Oslo to Paris, these major cities have plans to go car-free | World Economic Forum

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Two Indians die every minute due to air pollution: Study

Air pollution has today become a serious issue for health with reports claiming that it is the fourth leading risk factor for premature deaths worldwide and fifth largest killer in India.

According to a new study, the air Indians breathe is turning more toxic by the day and an average of two deaths take place daily due to air pollution. Children and senior citizens are at the high risk of getting affected due to inhaling of unhealthy air.

The study published in medical journal The Lancet, said that over a million Indians die every year due to air pollution and some of the worst polluted cities of the world are in India.

The study released this week but based on 2010 data estimated that globally 2.7-3.4 million preterm births may be associated with PM2.5 exposure and South Asia is the worst hit accounting for 1.6 million pre-term births.

The study said that causes of air pollution and climate change are intricately linked and needed to be tackled together.

The Lancet concluded that climate change posed both a potentially catastrophic risk to human health while conversely being the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century if the right steps are taken.

The smog over northern India is extracting a heavy toll, every minute two lives are lost in India due to ambient air pollution, the study said.

Patna, Delhi worst polluted cities

Recently, 48 leading scientists released the study and they find that Patna and New Delhi the worst polluted cities of the world for PM 2.5 levels or the fine particulate matter that hurts the heart most.

The study noted that a broader evidence base on interrelated health and climate change trends will notably help demonstrate clear co-benefits of action.

An estimated 18,000 people die every day due to air pollution exposure, making it the world’s largest single environmental health risk.

The World Bank in turn estimated that it costs the global economy USD 225 billion a year in related lost labour income.

Coal power plants contribute 50% pollution

Contradicting some of the Indian reports, The Lancet said that coal-fired power stations contribute to 50 per cent of the ambient air pollution.

Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Anil Madhav Dave recently admitted in Parliament that the country spends a mere Rs 7 crore annually on monitoring air pollution for a vast country of India’s size with a 1.3 billion population.

He had also said no credible study to quantify number of people who have developed lung and allied diseases or number of deaths directly as a result of air pollution is available.

Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan, a trained physician himself, says, “Pollution when it starts affecting lungs especially in little children can be a killer, it is like a slow poison and there is no reason for me not to be worried, a lot has been done, but still a lot that needs to be done.”

Meanwhile, called The Lancet Countdown, this study will report annually in The Lancet.

With inputs from across the world, some 16 institutions are academic partners of the initiative, including University College London, Tsinghua University and the Centre for Climate & Security among others.

This is special collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) to promote synergies, collaborate on data sources, and ensure strong engagement with Ministries of Health.

Dr Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, Head of the Health andClimate Change team at the World Health Organization, said, “The Paris Agreement was a landmark achievement – the challenge now is to meet the targets agreed by world leaders. The WHO is working directly with countries to provide evidence of the specific health risks that each of them faces, and the health opportunities of a resilient, low carbon future – as well as the support that they need to respond to this defining health issue of our time.”

According to the WHO, compared with a future without climate change, the following additional deaths for the year 2030 are projected, 38,000 due to heat exposure in elderly people, 48,000 due to diarrhoea, 60,000 due to malaria, and 95,000 due to childhood undernutrition.

The WHO projects a dramatic decline in child mortality, and this is reflected in declining climate change impacts from child malnutrition and diarrhoeal disease between 2030 and 2050.

On the other hand, by the 2050s, deaths related to heat exposure (over 100,000 per year) are projected to increase.

Impacts are greatest under a low economic growth scenario because of higher rates of mortality projected in low- and middle-income countries.

By 2050, impacts of climate change on mortality are projected to be greatest in south Asia. These results indicate that climate change will have a significant impact on child health by the 2030s.

The World Bank estimated that 5.5 million lives were lost in 2013 to diseases associated with outdoor and household air pollution, causing human suffering and reducing economic development.

The reports calls air pollution and climate change a potentially catastrophic risk to human health. The silver lining is that citizens are waking up and the study finds that almost 60 per cent of the people surveyed in India feel climate change substantially harms people.

Source: Two Indians die every minute due to air pollution: Study

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Madrid and Barcelona issued EU ultimatum over pollution levels 

The European Commission has given Spain two months to comply with EU air pollution standards or face a hefty face.

Spain was among five member states to be issued the ultimatum  for failing to address repeated breaches of air pollution limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), emissions that are mostly caused by road traffic.

Spain has three “air quality zones” that persistently breach NO2 limits, two in Barcelona and one in Madrid.

Air pollution causes an estimated 30,000 premature deaths in Spain each year according to a report published by the European Environment Agency (EEA) in November.

Spain, along with Germany, France, the UK and Italy, must show how it intends to comply with EU law within two months, or face a court hearing with the power to impose heavy fines.

Source: Madrid and Barcelona issued EU ultimatum over pollution levels – The Local

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