Air pollution in Italy falls since the start of the blockade

COPENHAGEN: Italy's air quality has improved since the country entered the coronavirus blockade, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said on Wednesday, a trend seen in other parts of Europe as well.

In Milan, the economic capital of Italy, the concentration of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a gas emitted mainly by vehicles and power plants and which can cause inflammation of the respiratory system, has decreased by 24 percent in the last four weeks, compared to the previous four weeks, the EEA said.

The week that started on March 16 only saw a 21 percent reduction compared to the same week a year earlier.

In Rome, NO2 levels have fallen between 26 and 35 percent during the same four weeks, and in Bergamo, the most affected city in Italy, the reduction was 47 percent.

The blockade in Italy began in certain areas of the north on February 23 before spreading across the country on March 9. As of 1100 GMT on Wednesday, Italy had recorded more than 69,000 cases with 6,820 deaths.

EEA said its data confirms large reductions in air pollutant concentrations ... largely due to reduced traffic and other activities, especially in major cities under closure measures. Other parts of Europe have seen similar effects, in Spain, for example, where the NO2 concentration has decreased by 55 percent in Barcelona and 41 percent in Madrid, in a 12-month comparison.

In the Spanish capital, the average concentration of NO2 has decreased by 56 percent from one week to the next.

NO2 levels have been halved in some other parts of the continent. But the French air quality monitoring agency warned that the blockade had not led to marked decreases in so-called PM2.5 and PM10 particles, the smallest and most damaging air pollutants, due to increased domestic heating and agricultural activity. keep going.

And the EEA insisted that emission reductions do not solve the problem of climate change. The current crisis and its multiple impacts on our society run counter to what we are trying to achieve, which is a just and well-managed transition to a resilient and sustainable society, the agency's director, Hans Bruyninckx, said in the statement.

In a comment to AFP last week, the director said that making Europe climate neutral requires continuous emission reductions over a long period.