The Balearic government still hasn’t created the Air Quality Improvement Plans to reduce traffic and power station emissions, and doesn’t even recognise the problem, all the while driving projects that will make it worse.
Using the data published on the Environment Ministry’s air quality website, Amics de la Terra and Ecologistes en Acció have been able to confirm that 12 of the 18 atmospheric pollution control stations located in the Balearics have already exceeded the ozone target set by Spanish legislation to protect health, during the three-year period 2015-2017.
The target is set at 120mg of ozone per cubic metre of air, measured in 8-hour periods, and it shouldn’t be exceeded more than 25 days in a year, as an average over 3 consecutive years.
Lacking the month of September to complete the period with the greatest risk of formation of this pollutant, the measuring stations in Pous (Menorca) and Alcúdia, Ca’n Llompart and Parc Bit (Palma) (Mallorca) have accumulated more than 100 days over the legal target. And the stations in Dalt Vila and Ca’n Misses (Ibiza) and Sa Pobla and S’Albufera (Mallorca) exceeded the legal limit on more than 75 days. Only the ozone readers located in Foners (Palma) (Mallorca) and Ciutadella (Menorca) maintained low levels of this pollutant.
This is an abnormal situation in recent years due to the persistence (since March and during five consecutive months) of an episode of high pollution, which doesn’t compare with any other region in Spain throughout all of 2017.
As such, practically all of the islands’ population and territory are exposed to pollution levels that damage health and the environment, above the level permitted by legislation.
Even so, the Balearic government has not only amassed a decade of delays in creating the required Air Quality Improvement Plans for the affected areas, with measures to reduce maritime and vehicular traffic and power station emissions, but it doesn’t even recognise the problem, according to the statements made yesterday by the Director General for Energy and Climate Change, highlighting that the “air quality in the Balearics is excellent”.
In addition, the government’s projects include the Palma-Llucmajor dual carriageway extension to Campos, which will mean a 10 per cent traffic increase on the route, with the resulting rise in emissions, just the opposite to what should be done if the problem were being addressed responsibly.
What’s more, Amics de la Terra and Ecologistes en Acció also criticise the insufficient information bring provided to the public by the government. In 2017, the stations in Sant Joan de Déu, Pous, Torrent, Ca’n Llompart, S’Albufera, Parc Bit and Joan March Hospital have exceeded on 62 occasions the information threshold that requires the autonomous authorities to advise the people who are most sensitive to atmospheric pollution, such as children, older people, pregnant women or people with breathing or heart problems, who should protect themselves by avoiding any exertion in the open air.
It represents serious negligence on the part of the government, added to the lack of transparency and the apathy shown throughout the five months during which the islands have been above the target ozone level set by legislation to protect health, just as with the delay in creating the required Air Quality Improvement Plans for the regions of Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza that have been, in recent years, exceeding this legal target.
Low-level ozone is the Balearic Islands’ most widespread pollutant with the greatest effect on people and vegetation, with levels on the rise. This is due to the increasing average temperatures and the extreme weather situations (heatwaves) throughout spring and summer, as a result of climate change.
When inhaled, it increases the risk of acute respiratory illnesses and reduces lung function, as well as worsening heart diseases, especially affecting children, older people, pregnant women and people suffering breathing and heart problems.
The European Environment Agency (EEA) estimates that there are 1,800 premature deaths per year due to low-level ozone in Spain. Two thirds of crops and a large part of woodland and natural areas experience ozone levels that damage vegetation.