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Barcelona Could Cut Deaths from Air Pollution and Improve Quality of Life by Implementing in Full Plan

A study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), published in the journal Environment International, found the city of Barcelona

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Barcelona, Deaths, Air Pollution
FILE - Pollution and clouds are seen over the sky of Barcelona, Spain, July 25, 2019. VOA

Barcelona could cut deaths from air pollution and improve quality of life by implementing in full a plan to calm traffic and free up space for residents, researchers said Monday.

The compact Spanish city is home to more than 1.6 million people and is plagued by contaminants and noise largely due to heavy density of traffic, as well as lack of greenery.

A study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), published in the journal Environment International, found the city of Barcelona could prevent 667 premature deaths every year if it created 503 “superblocks” as first proposed.

The superblocks — which keep cars out of designated areas in the city and develop public space in streets — have been complex to roll out, with only six put in place so far.

Barcelona, Deaths, Air Pollution
Barcelona could cut deaths from air pollution and improve quality of life by implementing in full a plan to calm traffic and free up space for residents. Pixabay

“What we want to show with this study is that we have to go back and put the citizen at the center of … urban plans, because the health impacts are quite considerable,” said lead author and ISGlobal researcher Natalie Mueller.

As a city with the highest traffic density in Europe, Barcelona also needed to make it easier for people to commute in from the wider metropolitan area by public transport, she added.

The projected reduction in deaths from the superblocks plan would be achieved mainly as a result of a 24% decrease in air pollution from nitrogen oxide (NO2), along with lower traffic noise and urban heat, the study said.

Data released Friday from the Barcelona Public Health Agency showed air pollution accounted for 351 premature deaths in the city in 2018, around the same as in 2017.

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Motor vehicles generated the main pollutant, with almost half the city’s population regularly exposed to NO2 levels above the safe limit set by the World Health Organization, the city council said.

From January 2020, Barcelona will implement low-emission zones on weekdays, keeping 125,000 vehicles out of the city.

The city council will also declare a climate emergency including a package of urgent measures to cut down on private vehicle use and boost public transport, among other actions.

It has already extended cycle paths and upgraded its shared bike scheme, while shrinking on-street parking.

 

Barcelona, Deaths, Air Pollution

The compact Spanish city is home to more than 1.6 million people and is plagued by contaminants and noise largely due to heavy density of traffic, as well as lack of greenery. Pixabay

‘Courage’ needed

Barcelona City Hall told the Thomson Reuters Foundation it aimed to start drafting plans for three new superblocks shortly, as well as launching public consultations for others.

The ISGlobal study found that, besides reducing deaths, a full roll-out of the superblocks project would increase life expectancy by almost 200 days on average per inhabitant, and generate an annual economic saving of 1.7 billion euros ($1.9 billion).

The superblocks have sparked opposition in some local areas, notably among small traders who fear they could deter customers.

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But Mueller said the concept was similar to banning smoking in bars and restaurants, which was initially unpopular but quickly accepted once people realized the benefits.

“Even if they don’t see it in the beginning, often in the end they are quite happy,” she said, noting the need for “courage” in public policy making. (VOA)

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Reduction in Air Pollution May Increase Life-Expectancy: Study

Findings of a Research indicate almost immediate and substantial effects on health outcomes followed reduced exposure to air pollution

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Pollution
Fortunately, reducing air Pollution can result in prompt and substantial health gains. Pixabay

Reductions in Air Pollution yielded fast and dramatic impacts on health-outcomes, as well as decreases in all-cause morbidity, a new study suggests.

The study, published in the journal Annals of the American Thoracic Society, reviewed interventions that have reduced air pollution at its source. It looked for outcomes and time to achieve those outcomes in several settings, finding that the improvements in health were striking.

Starting at week one of a ban on smoking in Ireland, for example, there was a 13 per cent drop in all-cause mortality, a 26 per cent reduction in ischemic heart disease, a 32 per cent reduction in stroke, and a 38 per cent reduction in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Interestingly, the greatest benefits in that case occurred among non-smokers.

“We knew there were benefits from pollution control, but the magnitude and relatively short time duration to accomplish them were impressive,” said lead author Dean Schraufnagel from the American Thoracic Society in the US.

“Our findings indicate almost immediate and substantial effects on health outcomes followed reduced exposure to air pollution. It’s critical that governments adopt and enforce WHO guidelines for air pollution immediately,” Schraufnagel added.

Pollution
Reductions in Air Pollution yielded fast and dramatic impacts on health-outcomes, as well as decreases in all-cause morbidity, a new study suggests. Pixabay

According to the researchers, In the US a 13-month closure of a steel mill in Utah resulted in reducing hospitalisations for pneumonia, pleurisy, bronchitis and asthma by half.

School absenteeism decreased by 40 per cent, and daily mortality fell by 16 per cent for every 100 µg/m3 PM10 (a pollutant) decrease.

Women who were pregnant during the mill closing were less likely to have premature births.

A 17-day ‘transportation strategy,’ in Atlanta, Georgia during the 1996 Olympic Games involved closing parts of the city to help athletes make it to their events on time, but also greatly decreased air pollution.

In the following four weeks, children’s visits for asthma to clinics dropped by more than 40 per cent and trips to emergency departments by 11 per cent. Hospitalizations for asthma decreased by 19 per cent.

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Findings of the Study indicate almost immediate and substantial effects on health outcomes followed reduced exposure to air pollution. It’s critical that governments adopt and enforce WHO guidelines for air pollution immediately. Wikimedia Commons

Similarly, when China imposed factory and travel restrictions for the Beijing Olympics, lung function improved within two months, with fewer asthma-related physician visits and less cardiovascular mortality.

“Fortunately, reducing air pollution can result in prompt and substantial health gains. Sweeping policies affecting a whole country can reduce all-cause mortality within weeks,” Schraufnagel said.

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Local programmes, such as reducing traffic, have also promptly improved many health measures, said the study. (IANS)