A study shows which cities have the most polluted air in Spain, shedding some light on the situation we find ourselves in. It also points the way to possible solutions.

Most important pollutants

We have already established here – over several articles – the importance of clean air for good health. We have also made it clear that obtaining it is not entirely straightforward: we live in cities where road congestion is the norm, leading to an impoverishment of air quality. Not only that; we also must deal with other sources of pollution. From industrial activity, on the peripheries of towns and cities, to processes that run parallel to our daily activities, such as air pollution from air conditioning.

Barcelona polluted city

There are many pollutants that we have already discussed, but three of the most important are PM2.5 particles, as well as nitrogen dioxide (NO2). You can follow the links to learn more about them and the havoc they wreak on our respiratory system, but it goes without saying here: these are substances whose high concentrations can lead to a reduction in our quality of life, reflected in respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

For this reason, the Observatorio de Sostenibilidad, a citizens’ association born in 2014, has worked on a report showing the concentrations of these agents in the Spanish territory. It is a report built with several sources: from measurements on the concentrations of the pollutants we have mentioned, to data obtained from the European Environment Agency (EEA). An important work whose objective was to determine which of the 80 largest cities in Spain have seen an improvement in air quality and which have worsened.

Report about the air quality in Spain

The report is from 2021, as data is still needed to understand the current year, and takes as its basis the metrics established by the WHO for pollutant concentrations. The analysis was then cross-checked with previous years, including, of course, 2020, when pollution rates saw a reduction due to measures taken during the worst days of the Pandemic.

 First, the good news. The average pollution level in 2021 was very similar to that of 2020. What does this mean? Let’s look at it this way: despite 2021 being a conventional year, compared to the months of lockdown and zero activity in 2020, the active degree of contamination was lower than in 2019 and previous years. This indicates that, on a societal level, environmental awareness seems to be occurring. Put in other words; despite having had industrial and road activity throughout last year, it seems that less pollution is starting to occur.

 Now for the bad news. Pollution levels in some of our big cities exceed the WHO recommended averages. Let’s look at the numbers. For PM2.5 particles, an annual average of 5µg(micrograms)/m3 is recommended, and a daily average of 15µg /m3. For NO2, an annual average of 10µg/m3, and a daily average of 25µg/m3. What about cities in Spain?

The most polluted cities in Spain

 This is how the report describes the scenario we are faced with. Madrid and Barcelona stand out for the way in which their concentrations soar beyond the WHO recommendations. In the case of the former, its overall levels reach 29 µg/m3. In the case of the latter, which is not far behind, the average is 24 µg/m3. If, according to the report, these are the lowest levels in recent years, how polluted was the air we were breathing prior to 2020?

Of course, you also must look at the size of cities. The Sustainability Observatory has divided the 80 cities into four categories, according to their size. Thus, Valencia and Malaga are among the largest cities, and these saw a reduction in their NO2 concentrations of 15% and 6% respectively, while Madrid increased by 7%.In the medium-sized cities, Murcia saw a reduction of 18% in its polluted air, as did Alicante with 11%. On the other hand, both Vigo and Valladolid worsened their pollution indices by 14% and 15%, respectively. In the next category, cities with between 100,000 and 250,000 inhabitants, Castellón de la Plana improved its air quality by 25%, but Salamanca worsened by 14%. Finally, in those cities with less than 100,000 inhabitants, Palencia improved its air quality by 23%, but Arrecife worsened by 43%. These measures are in reference to NO2, and the full list can be found in the link above.

Measures to be taken

Although it is true that some cities have reduced their pollution levels, it is true that these are still above the WHO recommendations. However, it is also true that a precedent has been set, as the air today is much cleaner than it was before the Pandemic.

For the Sustainability Observatory, the containment measures taken to combat Covid-19 can help determine plans to reduce air pollution.  They recommend, for example, establishing pedestrian zones for the use of bicycles, as well as the adoption of motorbikes and electric cars, better and more efficient public transport and measures to discourage the excessive use of private cars. They also suggest establishing low-emission zones, as has happened in London’s ULEZ.

We have already noted the link between indoor and outdoor air. Not only do our homes and offices produce some of the same pollutants we find on the streets, such as NO2 and PM 2.5 particles, but they are also often brought in from outside. Opening the windows to ventilate a little seems like a good solution to purify our rooms and bring in fresh air, but what we are doing is bringing more pollution into the spaces where we live and work. It is a very complicated situation, but it does not mean that there is no solution.

260i nano air purifier AIR8 polluted cities of Spain

How can air purifiers help?

Our AIR8 products are the most efficient air filters on the market. They use HEPA-13 technology, a medical-grade tool that guarantees the cleanest environment in the most polluted places. You will find it in clinics and hospitals, and you will also find it in our services. It is a guarantee of purity: 99.97% of all pollutants in your home or office will be filtered out without any problems. From NO2 and PM 2.5 particles, to Covid-19 and any other virus or pathogen that enters your spaces.

Our filters are designed for all kinds of spaces and needs. They can be easily transported from room to room, are quiet and elegant, large and small, and have a filtering range of up to 130 m2. Their CADR (Clean Air Delivery Rate) makes them the most effective product in their class, as well as a great defence against the pollution to which our spaces are subjected.

While it is true that outdoor air has seen a small improvement, it is still too early to celebrate. The truth is that our homes and offices should be safe places in which to breathe easy, and with AIR8 you can achieve this. With us, you have the guarantee that in your home you will be able to breathe with peace of mind.