As the developed world’s attention focuses on the latest climate change conference ongoing in Paris – described as the planet’s last chance before catastrophe – figures released by the European Environment Agency show that air pollution caused the premature deaths of almost 6,200 people in Portugal as many as three years ago.
With the 2013 report only revealed last Friday, we’re left to understand that things can only have become worse since the data was compiled.
Ironically, while 150 world leaders get ready to discuss a deal to put the brakes on temperature increases across the globe, media in Portugal explains that our corner of the Iberian Peninsula doesn’t even get a say in the matter, as the last government “did not enrol Portugal in COP21” (standing for 21st Conference in Paris).
Prime Minister António Costa turned up for the opening last night, however, and took part in today’s inauguration lunch at Le Bourget, along with other representatives from PALOP (Portuguese-speaking) countries, including Brazil, Guinea-Bissau, Angola, Mozambique, São Tomé e Principe and Cabo Verde.
See our paper edition later this week for updates on the conference and a more full report on how climate change is set to affect Portugal within the next 20 years.
Meantime, the “6,190 premature deaths” have been attributed to the concentration of tiny particles of nitrogen dioxide and ozone in the atmosphere.
These particles (invisible to the naked eye) prompt health issues ranging from respiratory problems to heart disease and cancers, explains the EEA report.
The report adds that the bulk of the deaths was associated with “fine particles” dubbed PM2.5 in the atmosphere, while around 600 were attributed to the two pollutants (NO2 and ozone).
Areas of Portugal where air pollution levels are considered excessive include Lisbon, Porto, Braga, Setúbal, Vila Franca da Xira, Almada and, surprisingly perhaps, Faro, in the Algarve.
“The report shows that many towns and cities continue to be exposed to levels of air pollutants considered unsafe by the World Health Organisation,” the EEA explains.