79 per cent of Spaniards breathe polluted air

Spain's air quality improved for the second year running in 2009, thanks more to the economic crisis rather than to action taken by public authorities, environmental group Ecologistas en Acción said.

Collating data from regional authorities, Ecologistas found that emissions of fine particles (PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) were down by about five per cent on 2008. Despite the improvement, 2.8 million and 5.2 million people were exposed to levels of PM10 and NO2 respectively that were in excess of the binding EU air quality standards. As compared to the World Health Organization's air quality guidelines, it is estimated that some four out of five Spanish citizens are exposed to excessive air pollution levels.

According to Ecologistas, air quality is improving despite a lack of adequate action by Spanish public authorities. Few air quality plans are in place, as required by the 2008 EU air quality directive, and those that exist are ineffective because they lack measures to reduce road traffic.

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