In Spain, more than 16,000 people die prematurely each year due to breathe contaminated air, eight times more than those killed in traffic accidents, according to specialists from the Area of ​​Respiratory Diseases and Environment of the Spanish Society of Pneumology and Thoracic Surgery (SEPAR).

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), half of the deaths related to air pollution occur in developed countries, as a result of gases from the transport and industrial sectors. In Spain, specifically, 35% of the population breathes contaminated air and, from SEPAR, insist on the urgency of reducing air pollution in our country, because it favors the development or exacerbation of pathologies of the respiratory system and other associated with these, such as cardiovascular diseases or cancer.

Urban traffic is the main cause of pollution, well above the industries, because it produces the so-called NOx, a generic term that includes a group of very reactive gases, which contain nitrogen and oxygen in different proportions.

Spain ranks second in emissions of NOx pollutants in Europe behind the United Kingdom and, according to the coordinator of the Area of ​​Respiratory Diseases and Environment of SEPAR, Dr. Cristina Martínez, inhaling NOx affects the respiratory tract and the deeper reaches of the respiratory tract. the lungs, and inhibits some of its functions.

Pollution above the limit

In a 2001 directive, Brussels set pollution limits for 2010 that Spain will not achieve, according to the Ministry of the Environment. The Secretary of State for Climate Change, Teresa Ribera, points out that this failure is due, above all, to the unexpected growth in energy demand, together with the large number of vehicles that use diesel engines (which emit a smaller amount of CO2, but they produce more NOx and other toxic elements).

In 2008, Spain emitted 1,236 million tonnes of NOx, 46% more than the limit set for 2010. Overall, it is expected that the limit set by Brussels for NOx will be exceeded by 35%, by 15% that of volatile organic compounds and 10% ammonia at the end of the year.

According to SEPAR, it is "vitally important" that the approval of the Industrial Emissions Directive be promoted during the Spanish Presidency of the European Union which - in the opinion of Dr. Martínez - would force the industrial sector in Spain to use the technologies currently available for the protection of the environment, as has already happened in other European countries, with the aim of reducing emissions, which would protect the health of people and contribute to a cleaner and more sustainable industry.

Smog blamed for more than 20 deaths in Lahore (November 2019).