Rome and Milan still heavily polluted despite car traffic bans

Air pollution in Rome and Milan has remained dangerously high despite emergency traffic restrictions adopted this week to reduce contamination from carcinogenic fumes, official data showed Tuesday.

Milan banned most car traffic from 10 am to 4 pm until Thursday, while Rome limited it until Wednesday according to the last digit of number plates: only even or odd numbers are allowed on the road, depending on the day.

Yet in Rome, the Monday concentration of PM 10 dust particles stayed above the EU limit of 50 micrograms per cubic meter in 11 out of 13 pollution monitoring stations, regional environment agency ARPA Lazio said.

On Sunday, a non-working day, only five were above the threshold.

In Milan, average PM 10 pollution levels rose from 75 to 78 micrograms per cubic meter between Sunday and Monday, local ARPA Lombardia offices reported. EU limits have been breached for 34 consecutive days, and 99 times over the course of 2015.

The prolonged absence of rain and wind, which help clear pollution, has made the situation worse. The weather is expected to change only after New Year's Day.

The crisis has exposed public authorities to charges that they are not doing enough to protect public health, amid claims by a health ministry consultant that pollution has cut Italians' average life expectancy by 10 months.

Professor Francesco Forastiere told Monday's La Stampa newspaper that current pollution levels will cause more deaths. "There are very precise studies: If PM 10 pollution reaches 60 micrograms per cubic meter, death rates rise by 1 per cent."

Environment Minister Gianluca Galletti called a meeting Wednesday with regional presidents, mayors of big cities and environmental experts to elaborate a response to what has been called the "smog emergency."

Last update: Sat, 02/01/2016 - 07:41
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