You don’t have to step into the street for Madrid’s roads to pose a hazard to your health: air pollution from cars in the city might just knock you over. Scientists are finding links between the gases and disease.
Pollution is not quite a top-ten killer – in Western Europe, lifestyle choices such as smoking, lack of exercise, and an unhealthy diet pose a bigger risk. Yet strikingly, the diseases linked to particulate air pollution may be the hardest to avoid if you cannot avoid the pollution itself.
In Madrid, three quarters of air pollution comes from motor vehicles. On bad days, a brown cloud sits on top of the city – prompting residents to call the smog cloud “boina” or beret because it looks like the city is wearing a cap.
More objective measures of the city’s air pollution show that it regularly exceeds European-mandated levels of gases and particles. Madrileños – or Madrid residents – walking around Atocha, one of the city’s biggest roundabouts, offer a variety of solutions for tackling the pollution problem.”We need to reduce traffic and produce cars that use other sorts of fuels,” said one woman.”Riding bicycles and using public transportation should be promoted more,” said another bystander. “I think there should be a fee, too, for cars that enter certain zones.”