In summer, temperatures are not the only ones that rise, but the levels of air pollution accompany them. At this moment, after the complaint of the European Commission for the violation of the air quality directive, it is important to reflect on this problem that affects us all, take measures to protect ourselves and provide “our grain of sand” to contribute to the improvement of the situation.
Why air pollution gets worse in summer?
These last weeks there has been much talk about the air quality of Madrid, Barcelona and the Vallès-Baix Llobregat area and the measures implemented from Europe in order to get our attention and look for options to improve the situation.
It has been commented that the European Commission’s complaint coincides with the decision of the mayor of Madrid to reverse the low emission zone of “Madrid Central”, but it can also really be closely related to summer and rising temperatures.
Only in this month of July:
- Barcelona has published 4 preventive warnings of environmental pollution episodes, suffering 1 of the 2 that have occurred over this year.
- Madrid has suffered the only 2 episodes of ozone pollution throughout 2019.
Do you think that’s coincidence? Well, the rise in temperatures is most often accompanied by increased levels of pollution by tropospheric ozone, also known as “bad ozone“.
This is mainly due to the so-called precursor gases: volatile organic compounds (VOCs), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). These pollutant gases produced by the wide variety of emissions we make daily to the atmosphere, react with the sun and temperature to generate smog and airborne particles. As you have already deduced, these photochemical reactions occur more easily in summer, thus causing the typical “gray cloud” that can be observed over certain territories on days with intermediate levels of contamination.
How to protect yourself and how to solve the problem?
Air pollution affects us all, but especially the so-called sensitive groups: children, elderly, people with respiratory problems or pregnant women. It causes a wide variety of discomforts and/or diseases, from a simple irritation of the eyes and nose to asthma, reproductive problems or heart attacks, among many others.
Knowing this, ask yourself if you really want the people you love and you to continue “playing heads or tails” with atmospheric pollution. Some recommendations to protect you are:
- On days with pollution episodes avoid going outside and opening the windows of the house, since air pollution does not occur only outside.
- If you want to make sure that the air you breathe at home is free of contaminants, you can always buy an air purifier.
- Avoid the streets with more traffic as it’s where you usually find the highest levels of pollution.
- Wear a mask to protect against pollution on days of environmental events or if you are usually very close to the emitting sources of particles and polluting gases, such as a biker in a traffic jam.
- Avoid doing outdoor sports in cities, and if you try to practice it in quiet areas or as close to nature as possible.
Although, it is of no use to protect yourself and don’t act to solve the problem, if not it would get even bigger and we will reach a point where all protection won’t be enough. Right now, it is in our hands to provide the grain of sand to find a solution, in actions such as:
- Change driving habits:
- Drive less to reduce emissions.
- Carry out maintenance of the car so that it works correctly.
- Fill with fuel in cold temperatures.
- Buy a hybrid or electric vehicle.
- Change in consumption habits:
- Avoid products with high VOC content, not only for the prevention of smog, but also to have a good indoor air quality.
- Avoid using garden equipment that runs on gas.
- Buy local products to reduce transport emissions.
- Be energy efficient at home.
- Take sides:
- Do not support organizations that have bad environmental practices.
- Promote this way of thinking and what is being done to solve the problem, with family and close friends or even in social networks.
- Get in touch with local politicians and business leaders.