AN environmental group has warned that three out of four inhabitants of the Murcia region breath air that can be “manifestly improved.”
Ecologistas en Acción adds that this has negative “long-term” implications for people’s health. The group is now calling for vehicle access to cities tyo be restricted, increased promotion of public transport greater control over industrial emissions.
At a press conference today (January 9), the spokesman for the environmental organisation, Pedro Belmonte, indicated that road traffic in the metropolitan area of Murcia, Cartagena and Lorca, as well as the industrial centres of Murcia-Alcantarilla and Escombreras-La Aljorra (Cartagena) continue to be the main sources of air pollution.
Belmonte broke down the Report on Air Quality in the Region of Murcia in 2019, which denounces the “obsolete and outdated” network of air measuring stations and the “very lax” attitude towards the control and inspection of industrial emissions, with only two inspectors dedicated to this task.
He added that tropospheric ozone, nitrogen dioxide and PM-10 and PM-2.5 particles are the pollutants associated with traffic, while sulphur dioxide is the most important industrial emission when it comes to air quality.
With respect to traffic, Belmonte recalled that the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Centro Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) warned that pollution from vehicle emissions is a “fundamental” element in the “premature deaths” of the urban population.
For this reason, they criticised the fact that the framework protocol for municipal action in the event of warnings about exceeding the pollution thresholds only includes recommendations. The group supports the imposition of traffic restrictions during days when safe pollution levels are exceeded, as is the case in Madrid and Barcelona.
After calling for the modernisation of the eight fixed and two mobile monitoring stations and the extension of the network to Murcia Este, Sierra Minera and Jumilla/Cieza, Belmonte warned that the state regulations on safe levels for pollutants “do not eliminate the dangers to health”, and therefore advocated the more restrictive levels decreed by the WHO.
The spokesman for Ecologistas en Acción said that, following WHO guidelines, the Alumbres and Mompeán (Cartagena) stations exceeded the maximum levels of tropospheric ozone for 90 days in 2019, followed by Alcantarilla (84 days); Lorca (52) and Murcia-San Basilio (40).
As regards PM-10 particles, there were up to 13 episodes of two to three days where the limit of 50 micrograms per cubic metre were exceeded in Alcantarilla, Murcia San Basilio, La Aljorra, Escombreras and Mompeán (Cartagena), Lorca and Caravaca.
Belmonte also criticised the lack of data on PM-2.5 particles, which are more dangerous to health because they can enter the bloodstream through the alveoli of the lungs. In 2019, Alumbres and Mompeán (Cartagena) recorded more than 55 days exceeding the maximum levels of sulphur dioxide recommended by the WHO.
He also warned of abnormally high episodes of xylene in Alcantarilla, while calling for a measuring station or measurement campaign in the Sierra Minera due to the high levels of nickel detected by the Polytechnic University of Cartagena.
Belmonte criticised the “permissiveness” of the regional and local administrations in the face of illegal agricultural burning, pointing to the increase in complaints, which in the municipality of Murcia amounted to 117 during the past year.
Finally, he pointed out that, although the episodes of contamination due to bad odours have decreased in 2019, they have become a “constant problem” due to the existence of feedlot slurry, waste and spillage, faecal water, sewage sludge and fertiliser in agricultural activities.