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16.8 million Spaniards breathe polluted air

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16.8 million Spaniards breathe polluted air
Diesel engines are a major source of air pollution in European cities. Photo of air pollution: Shutterstock
16:38 CEST+02:00
Thirty-six percent of the Spanish population is exposed to unhealthy air pollution levels above EU safety limits, a new study by the World Health Organization has found.

Researchers behind The Annual Air Quality Report have warned that if the WHO’s stricter health recommendations were applied in Spain, a staggering 95 percent of the population would be considered to be exposed to dangerous air pollution levels.

Written up by Spanish green group Ecologistas en Acción, the study highlights rampant air contamination levels across urban Europe.

According to the data taken from 705 measuring stations, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, tropospheric ozone and particulate matter are the most widespread pollutants in the air in Spain.

“International health authorities estimate the number of premature deaths (in Spain) at 20,000 a year,” national daily El País quoted researcher Miguel Ángel Ceballos as saying about the effects of air pollution on our health. 

"The level of pollution in Spain depends very much on where you are," Lancet study author Mark Nieuwenhuijsen told The Local.

"Barcelona and Madrid have very high pollution rates because they are very dense, compact cities," said the researcher, who is the Director of Air Pollution Studies at Spain's Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL). 

"In Barcelona this pollution is partly from industry and partly from traffic, whereas in Madrid, traffic is the main problem."

READ ALSO: Barcelona to fight smog with cheaper train tickets

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