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Rock has poor air quality, WHO report finds

A recent report has shown that Gibraltar exceeds the World Health Organisation’s recommended levels for air pollution.

Regarding small particles of matter, known as PM10, Gibraltar has a reading of 31 micrograms per cubic metre thereby exceeding the recommended limit of 20.

In addition, Gibraltar exceeded the recommended level of PM2.5 – the measure of tiny particle matter- by four micrograms per cubic metre with a reading of 14.

PM10 and PM2.5 include “pollutants such as sulfate, nitrates and black carbon, which penetrate deep into the lungs and into the cardiovascular system”.

The Gibraltar Government did not respond to requests for comment yesterday, but the Department of the Environment is expected to make a comment on the findings later this week.

The Environmental Safety Group described the report as ‘concerning’ but added that it should help place pressure on administrations everywhere for more to be done to reduce pollution from their cities given the impact this is known to have on health.

Gibraltar has fared badly primarily because of its ailing power stations, the ESG told the Chronicle.

“Hopefully once we have a new power station up and running incorporating best available technology as pledged by the authorities this should no longer be the case.”

With 98% of cities currently breaching air quality levels this is a widespread problem, the ESG added.

Two years ago the WHO in another similar report, cited La Linea as having the worst air quality in Spain, in terms of PM10’s and PM2.5’s, the worst pollutant culprit being studied in this report also.

The ESG issued a statement then calling for robust real-time monitoring in the North West of Gibraltar to address cross border pollution from the heavy industry located in the Campo area believing this affects Gibraltar’s environment as well as La Linea and other towns in the Bay.

In the past, the government has also pointed to climatic conditions and Sahara dust as contributing to particulate levels in Gibraltar’s air quality.

The information in the WHO report -from 3000 cities in 103 countries- included data up to 2013 and stated “…more than 80% of people living in urban areas that monitor air pollution are exposed to air quality levels that exceed WHO limits.”

The significance of the findings was underscored by Dr Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant-Director General, Family, Women and Children’s Health.

“Air pollution is a major cause of disease and death. It is good news that more cities are stepping up to monitor air quality, so when they take actions to improve it they have a benchmark,” she said

“When dirty air blankets our cities the most vulnerable urban populations—the youngest, oldest and poorest—are the most impacted,” she added.

During the World Health Assembly, May 23-28, Member States will discuss a road map for a larger global response into the adverse effects air pollution has on health.

Neighbouring town La Línea recorded 30 micrograms per cubic metre for PM10 and 17 micrograms per cubic metre for PM2.5.

The city with the highest level of air pollution for PM10 is Onitsha in Nigeria with 594 micrograms per cubic metre and for PM2.5 is Zabol in Iran with 217 micrograms per cubic metre.

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