Covid-19: it is imperative to improve the air in Córdoba

29 Mar 2020

We have the respiratory and circulatory systems affected by air pollution.

Air pollution reduces life expectancy globally in almost three years and causes the premature death of 8.8 million people a year. This is the result of a recent publication by Cardiovascular Research carried out by scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Chemistry in Germany and other European research centers.

According to the World Health Organization (OMS), nine out of 10 people in the world breathe air with high levels of pollutants.

Aware that we consume more air than water and food (an adult person consumes about 13.5 kilograms of air daily), we have the respiratory and circulatory systems affected by air pollution, something that we have naturalized and that public policies take with indifference.

On our already violated lungs, the new coronavirus is now down. While there are no studies yet linking Covid-19 mortality to air pollution, a study published by Environmental Health in 2003 on a similar coronavirus, which caused the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), showed that patients from from regions with moderate levels of air pollution were 84 percent more likely to die than from areas with light air pollution.

The sars had 8,045 people affected worldwide. The Covid-19 exceeds about 50 times that number and continues to grow, which has collapsed First World health systems such as those in Italy and Spain, which is why mortality increased.

Consequently, reducing air pollution would not only reduce mortality from previous health problems, but also because there would be fewer patients with hospitalization needs that saturate and collapse the health system.

With this background, it is imperative that the enormous collective effort of compulsory quarantine be accompanied by a very strong public policy to reduce air pollution. This implies concrete actions for each level of the State.

Municipal actions

The city of Córdoba is in a valley that runs from east to west, which limits north and south winds. Added to this is the seasonal phenomenon of thermal inversion, whereby on cold, dry and windless mornings in winter, the accumulation of pollutants occurs in the first few meters of the atmosphere.

Due to these conditions, we have severe air pollution problems in the city of Córdoba.

As an immediate measure, Mayor Martín Llaryora must resolve the coordination of traffic lights, since they unnecessarily increase the dwell time of vehicles and their emissions, as they have to accelerate and brake permanently.

Another immediate action is the control of emissions from industries, for which there is resolution 105 of 2017, which updated the regulations. Now you have to apply it.

It is also urgent to enforce the prohibitions of not burning in the city: from the burning of leaves on the street and the tires in the demonstrations to the garbage dumps.

They are all unnecessary sources of air pollution and we must collectively understand that this kills people, and even more so in the days of Covid-19.

In the medium term, there is a need for a transportation system that reduces overall emissions and discourages car use.

From the Province

In addition to the aforementioned policies at the municipal level, Governor Juan Schiaretti must take action on the problem of pesticide application in peri-urban sectors.

According to our Agrochemical Law, class III and IV pesticides such as glyphosate can be applied up to the side of a school or neighborhood, if it is done by land. In addition to the well-known long-term illnesses, this affects the respiratory tract of the inhabitants of the agro-industrial production area.

It is not enough to appeal to good agricultural practices; reality requires debating and applying safe distances and promoting organic production in the peri-urban strip.

Another source is forest and grassland fires. Since 99 percent of fires are intentionally or accidentally caused by the human hand, it is essential to invest again in formal prevention education.

Since 2007, it has not been done. If educational actions had been sustained over time, the problem of forest fires would be significantly less.

* Biólogo; presidente del Foro Ambiental Córdoba

Source: La Voz