The health costs of air pollution from roads are higher in Bucharest than many other city in Europe, a study reports.
Air pollution costs the Bucharest city resident €3,004 per year, according to the largest study of its kind. In comparison the cost for the Sofia city resident is €2,084 per year, and the average European city resident €1,276 per year.
By Claudiu Vrinceanu
The report for the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) quantifies the monetary value of premature death, medical treatment, lost working days and other health costs caused by the three air pollutants causing the most illness and death: particulate matter (PM), ozone (O₃) and nitrogen dioxide (NO₂).
Though Bucharest tops the Europe chart for highest costs faced by the average city resident, based on intense pollution levels, Italian cities dominate the top 10, based on their pollution and higher general costs.
“Our study reveals the magnitude of the damage toxic air is causing to people’s health and the huge health inequalities that exist between and within countries in Europe. To a large extent, the situation can be influenced by transport policies and cities can reduce costs by switching to zero-emission urban mobility. Governments and the European Union should bear these costs in mind for transport policy in order to support, not to hinder, a healthy recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said EPHA Acting Secretary General Sascha Marschang said.
The study examined 432 cities in all EU countries plus the UK, Norway and Switzerland. Added together, air pollution costs for city residents amount to €166 billion per year, or €385 million per city on average. When grouped by city rather than per capita cost, those living in big, expensive cities tend to face the highest pollution costs due to population density, higher earnings and expenses.
But cities in Central and Eastern Europe buck this trend and feature high in the impact table despite lower income levels as particularly bad air pollution takes its toll. Hence the average Bucharest resident faces the highest costs, at €3,004, while those in unpolluted Santa Cruz de Tenerife face the least, at €382.
Transport is a major source of urban air pollution, costing €67- 80 billion in the EU28 in 2016, according to a previous EPHA report. The study, conducted by CE Delft, is the biggest of its kind, in terms of number of cities and pollutants studied. Researchers took the latest complete data from Eurostat and official monitoring stations, from 2018, to calculate the harms caused and the costs related to resulting illnesses.
Deloitte: The pandemic speeds up big cities’ decisions to limit traffic and expand space for cyclists and pedestrians
The lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic seems to accelerate the changes already analyzed before by local authorities, such as transformation of city centers into more friendly areas for pedestrians and cyclists, according to Deloitte 2020 City Mobility Index. Cities that have reclaimed street space from cars to enable physical distancing for cycling and walking are looking to cement those changes in a post-coronavirus world, shows the study, which measures mobility performance in 21 cities around the world, including seven European cities – Amsterdam, Barcelona, Dublin, Lisbon, London, Manchester, Rome and Stockholm.
According to the study, private cars, once considered a symbol of the urban environment, are subject to an increasing number of restrictions, given that the downsides of a car-centric city are becoming more acute – congestion, poor air quality, road traffic accidents. Barcelona, which banned traffic in certain areas a few years ago, Stockholm, London and New York City, which imposed substantial fees for access to the city center with a personal car, and Berlin, which banned diesel vehicles from certain areas of the city, are just a few examples in this respect.