Air pollution hot spots revealed
Air pollution hot spots have been revealed by consumer groups in Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia.
At a time when the European Commission is about to present its Zero Pollution Action Plan, urgent actions are needed to protect citizens’ health.
However, progress is being made. The European Consumers Organisation (BEUC) carried out a citizen science project with its members in Slovakia, Lithuania and Poland on long-term exposure to nitrogen oxide (NO2). BEUC members in the 3 nations led a project to measure NO2 emissions where people live, work, or spend most of their time. In the middle of the pandemic, they placed tubes in residential areas, next to schools or along the main roads of cities to get a sense of real-life exposure to NO2.
Results exhibit that while only a few measuring stations exceed the WHO/EU limit of 40 µg/m³, there are numerous hot spots in every city where concentration levels are cause for concern. For example, in Slovakia and Lithuania higher pollution levels were identify along busy roads or next to places frequented by young people. Measurements in Poland shows that NO2 pollution levels in a given location can vary enormously over time, due to traffic intensity or meteorological conditions.
The constant exposure to air pollution revealed in these air quality tests highlight the importance of the “prevention-first” principle in the Zero Pollution Action Plan.
Indeed, the recently published 2020 report on Air Quality in Europe by the European Environment Agency warns: “[While] the lockdown measures introduced by most European countries to reduce transmission of COVID-19 in the spring of 2020 led to significant reductions in emissions of air pollutants, (…) air pollution continues to have significant impacts on the health of the European population, particularly in urban areas”.
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