The briefing, published by the European Environment Agency (EEA) on May 6th, showed that Spain exceeded the thresholds put in place to protect human health on 150 days out of a maximum of 183, during summer 2014, making it the worst performing country in Europe.
The briefing focused on ozone air pollution, which is created near the Earth’s surface when daylight UV rays react with pollutants, usually emitted during the burning of fossil fuels.
Ozone levels typically become particularly high in regions where considerable emissions of these gases combine with stagnant meteorological conditions, high levels of solar radiation and high temperatures during the summer.
The maximum number of 63 exceedance days was observed at the station Villanueva del Arzobispo in south central Spain.
Exposure to high ozone concentrations can cause breathing problems, trigger asthma, reduce lung function and cause lung diseases.
“It is true that some cities like Barcelona and Madrid have high levels of pollution and there are very few policies to reduce it, if any, “ Jonathan Gómez Cantero, a climatologist and member of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, told The Local.
Cantero warned however, that while Spain could certainly do more when it comes to policies to tackle pollution, come of the causes cannot be changed.
“You need to remember that the weather conditions in Spain are very different from other European countries. In Madrid, for example, we have less wind and fewer rainy days than in cities like Berlin or Brussels, which causes much more pollution to occur,” he told The Local.
“It is not just a question of emissions, but of atmospheric conditions,” he added. Spain was one of seven European countries that registered more than 25 days of exceeding safe pollution levels during summer 2014.
The other countries were Austria, Cyprus, France, Germany, Hungary and Luxembourg.
Spain has been battling air pollution problems for some time. Madrid recently scored an " F grade" for its efforts to clean up its air pollution.