The Acting Minister for Health, Consumer Affairs and Social Well-being, María Luisa Carcedo, visited the work “Pollution Pods” at the #COP25, where she highlighted key data that demonstrate that air pollution is responsible for a significant number of deaths, hospitalisations and diseases.
The acting minister noted that “it has been shown that air pollutants are responsible for 10,000 deaths a year,” according to a number of studies by the National Health School, part of the Carlos III Health Institute. She added that the figure could be higher. It is estimated that there could be as many as 30,000 deaths related to breathing polluted air.
This means “the consequences of climate change are already a public health emergency,” she said.
She specified that around 10% of cases of lung cancer are attributable to atmospheric pollution. Given that an estimated 30,000 new cases were diagnosed in Spain this year, some 3,000 could be avoided.
PM particles (which come above all from combustion in fossil fuel engines) are associated with 2,600 deaths per year. Their main effect can be seen in respiratory diseases.
In addition to this, the high presence of tropospheric ozone in the air produces some 500 deaths per year in Spain. As well as deaths due to cardiovascular and respiratory causes, its effect can be seen in low weight at birth and dementia.
The acting minister also talked about the effects of nitrogen dioxide, which are related to the risk of premature death, premature birth, low weight and other birth complications, alterations in cognitive development and deficient lung function. It is estimated to cause around 3,300 deaths per year in Spain.
As well as this, atmospheric pollution is thought to be the cause of 1,700 cases per year of low weight at birth (13% of such cases) and 2,400 premature births (17% of premature births).
Time for action
For these reasons, the acting minister has insisted that “it is time to act now”, adding that “the health, social and economic cost of pollution is very high.”
María Luisa Carcedo recalled that the Ministry of Health, Consumer Affairs and Social Well-being is working on measures to prevent the high impact of air pollution on human health and reduce the mortality and morbidity levels attributable to it.
These measures have been included within the Air Plan and aim to protect the health of the population as the quality of air is improved. In addition, she explained that coordinated work is being done on the Health and Environment Plan.
The acting minister noted that this plan includes a prevention plan for situations of episodic pollution, whose main aim will be to prevent and mitigate the negative effects generated by specific situations of atmospheric pollution on the health of the population, in particular those groups considered most vulnerable.
It will also take into account different risk levels and act in situations where certain levels of atmospheric pollutants are exceeded, based on the indices of air quality, thus making it possible to act in advance where and when necessary.