Madrid has record-breaking air pollution

MADRID -- Spain's capital city has ever-increasing levels of air contamination, with no solution in sight.

MADRID--It is not surprising that asthma cases are on the rise in Madrid, when you only need to watch the sunrise over smoggy highways to see the pollution.

The World Health Organization said Monday that 2010 saw Madrid's air contamination levels higher than they have ever been in the history of Spain. In the last 20 years, Madrid's air pollution levels have increased more than 20-percent.

Madrid Pharmacist Eva López is not surprised by these statistics. She has seen a steady increase in cases of asthma over the last few years. López said that this rise in acute asthma cases is obviously caused by air pollution, specifically from vehicle exhaust. "People suffer (from asthma) more in the center, with more relief in the suburbs" of Madrid, she said.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that carbon dioxide levels are the biggest cause of pollution. The IPCC is between "90- and 100-percent sure" that this drastic increase was caused by human activity.

SmartPlanet already talked about the fact that 80-percent of Madrile ño drivers do not share their commute with even a single passenger.

The main contaminant is the usual culprit--80-percent carbon dioxide. Traffic congestion, unremedied deforestation and changes in land use are the major contributors to the high CO2 levels. Transportation accounts for 15-percent of these CO2 emissions.

In addition to carbon dioxide, methane is responsible for 18-percent of the increase in air pollution. Sixty-percent of this is directly or indirectly caused by human interference, through rice and animal farming, exploitation of fossil fuels, and landfills. Greenpeace says that methane is 21 times more harmful than carbon dioxide.

While only contributing six-percent to the increase in atmospheric contaminants in Madrid, a notable increase in nitrous oxide over the last ten years was dubbed the "most worrisome" new finding, according to Greenpeace. This reflects an increase in the usage of fertilizers, as well as industrial air pollutants.

This is not an article about innovation in Madrid. If anything, time and time again, news sources have reported that, while air contamination levels are steadily rising in Madrid, nothing is being done about it. Madrid has put Band-aids on the problem by planting more trees, encouraging public transportation and promoting electric cars , but the government is doing almost nothing to reduce traffic congestion.

It is expected that this pollution will continue, as will the health issues that are consequences of it. Madrid is well on its way to being not only the most polluted city in Spain, but the most polluted in the Eurozone.

Is there anything your city is doing to reduce air contamination?

Photo: Cadena Ser

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