Prague Has Worst Air Pollution In Europe

Prague, Aug 17 (CTK) – Prague fares the worst in a recent study comparing air pollution in ten metropolises in the European Union (EU) that was conducted by the Brussels-based Transport & Environment (T&E) think tank, daily Lidove noviny (LN) writes today.


To breathe the air in Prague for four days is like smoking one cigarette a day, according to the study results.


The think tank has gathered data from the measurement stations in the centres of ten most popular European cities between August 1 and 7, 2018. Along with Prague, the most attractive tourist destination in the Czech Republic that welcomed 7.5 million visitors last year, those are Paris, London, Vienna, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Dublin, Milan, Rome and Istanbul.


Experts compared the pollution by airborne particles in the centres of these cities with similar levels of micro-particles that smokers breathe in from one cigarette.


The comparison focused on dust particles under 2.5 micrometre that can settle in bronchi. The data are in microgrammes per square metre and day, while Prague has 22, which equals one cigarette.


Out of the cities, only Istanbul (19) has almost as bad air as Prague. Tourists in Paris, Amsterdam and Vienna (12, 11, 10) breathe in a half of airborne dust of those in the Czech capital, while the cleanest metropolises in this respect are Barcelona the Dublin (4, 3).


However, experts question the comparison of the breathing of polluted air with smoking cigarettes mainly because it focuses on microdust only, while ignoring other harmful substances in tobacco.


This comparison is also misleading as up to 30 times more people die of smoking consequences than of diseases caused by air pollution, which Bohumil Kotik, head of the air and waste sanitary section of the State Health Institute (SZU), confirmed.


Moreover, the Brussels think tank used data from the measurement in the Prague-Smichov neighbourhood that are affected by a bustling city ring road.


However, Kotik admits that Prague has another “skeleton in the cupboard” – the south-north arterial road in the centre, crossing Wenceslas Square, the real heart of Prague.


The certificate of “a dirty city,” which Prague receives from the European think tank, also corresponds to the air pollution level used by Czech experts. The long-term average level of PM 2.5 dust particles, on which the European study is based, was 17-22 microgrammes last year, while the upper limit came exactly from the Prague-Smichov station.


The study also reveals another problem of Prague. It suffers from extensive car traffic that is not regulated at all.


LN writes that the quality of air in Prague is rather average in the country. The worst air pollution has long been reported in the Ostrava locality in the Moravian-Silesia Region, north Moravia, where the airborne dust level has been twice a high as in the capital, LN writes.


But unlike the Ostrava area where the industry is the main polluter, bad air in Prague is mainly caused by extensive road traffic, primarily by old cars or those whose owners intentionally modified them or even removed filters of solid particles.


Consequently, a mere one-tenth of all cars driving in Prague produce some two-thirds of the most harmful emissions from transport, which are small dust particles and nitrogen oxides.


Miroslav Suta, from the Centre for Environment and Health, points to long-term solutions to improve the air in Prague, such as the German model of obligatory eco-friendly labels on car windscreens.


“The creation of green zones where only the vehicles meeting the new emissions standards could enter would have the strongest effect,” he said, adding that another measure might be the introduction of a toll for driving into the centre.


Low-emission zones have been planned in Prague for years. They were to take effect in 2015 originally and then two years later, but the City Hall has not yet agreed on their final version, LN writes.