25 September, 2021       LISBON - MAX. Nice with sun and some cloudsº, MIN. 03º

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Folders  |  Is Lisbon a polluted city?
Is Lisbon a polluted city?
Pedro João, Terramater, Lda
Is Lisbon a polluted city?
Since my childhood, the term ‘air pollution’ has always conjured up images of factories and towns full of smog. Even now, as I write these lines, images flash before my eyes of people living in Tokyo, going about their business with white masks to help block the worst effects of the poor air quality.

In Portugal, the largest city of all is Lisbon, and it is the only one with a European size. If we talk of greater Lisbon, we can no longer compare the city with the other areas of dense population in the country, as Amadora, the second largest city in the land, is part of the former!  

Of course, we all presume that the lowest quality of air in the country is to be found in Lisbon. But maybe not. In fact, Lisbon is not the pollution magnet many would think.  And even if some of the main streets are amongst the most polluted in Europe, many of the city’s areas are less affected by pollution than some rural areas which are exposed to aggressive agents.

Moreover, some of our daily habits make less sense than we would think. For example:  

When, in Lisbon, a car driver closes his car window to avoid «letting pollution in», he is, in fact, shutting himself in a «bad air trap».  The idea itself is a good one if he had not let all of the outside pollution in upon entering the car. By closing the car doors, the concentration of polluting agents increases due to the breathing and perspiration of the passengers. This is true, of course, if the windows are shut. As well as being a box where the air is of poor quality, cars themselves also release polluting elements from the various plastics that make-up the interior, hence exposing passengers to pollutants that are far more dangerous than those outside the vehicle.

In order to improve this situation, a recent study by AIRPARIF describes the quality of air people breathe according to how they go about the city (the study was carried out in Paris but the conclusions apply to Lisbon) and the results are quite surprising. Those that suffer the less from pollution are pedestrians, followed by cyclists, and car drivers are those that breathe in the most polluted air. Cyclists have an advantage, if they are lucky enough to have specially-adapted lanes, because they can choose the best routes where they can breathe in air of  a similar quality to pedestrians.

The results of studies in Portuguese schools and the rest of Europe were even more reassuring. In general, these show that the quality of the air in Lisbon is not amongst the worst. The winds in the capital are mainly responsible for this. The study also shows that usually the quality of the air within homes, schools and particularly some  canteens and restaurants (cooking fumes containing fat are very bad for air quality) is poorer than the air in the city.

The conclusion that I came to recently is that air pollution is just a bad excuse for not walking or using a bicycle (or a segway – another form of personal transportation). The more people leave their cars at home, the better the air quality will be for all. Moreover, all of those that live in Lisbon have already seen that there is no easier way to get about town than on foot, by bicycle or with public transport.

And with spring and summer just around the corner, surely it’s worth getting to know the city on foot. The only valid excuse for not walking could be the seven hills that Lisbon contains, but then again, Lisbon wouldn’t be the same without them…

Pedro João


[terramater – ambiente, lda]

Email: raul@terramater.pt

Website: http://www.terramater.pt

Blog: blog.terramater.pt

NDLR: For information, the 25 least polluted cities of the planet (as we suspected, Lisbon is not among them): According to Forbes http://www.forbes.com/), the Earth’s 25 least polluted cities are located in 13 countries – among the richest and more industrialized – of the Northern hemisphere (except two cities in New Zealand).

To learn about the quality of air in Lisbon and Portugal: www.qualar.org  A site rich in information about the quality of beaches, rivers and all hydro resources: www.snirh.pt  The Portuguese Agency for the Environment: http://www.apambiente.pt/Paginas/default.aspx  Agrobio: with more than 4,000 members, an association for the development and protection of organic farming in Portugal www.agrobio.pt A Portal for  Nature and Biodiversity Preservation (also available in English and Castilian, the site proposes activities related to discovering and protectig of the environment): http://portal.icn.pt/ICNPortal/vPT2007/ The Sintra–Cascais Natural Park: http://portal.icnb.pt/ICNPortal/vPT2007-AP-SintraCascais?res=1440x900 The League for Nature Protection: www.lpn.pt Blue Flag Association of Europe: www.abae.pt You will find additional links at www.terramater.pt.

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