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Pollution in Italian cities
The new ruling on air quality
by Fiammetta Magnanensi

"The data regarding benzene and hydrocarbon pollution in our cities are very worrying, we are afflicted by pollution in the Spring and Summer seasons; we are in the process of partially resolving certain problems regarding nitric oxide, and we have managed to resolve some of the problems relating to sulphur dioxide." This is the disturbing scenario sketched out by Dr. Corrado Clini, Permanent Under-secretary of the Department of the Environment.

But there’s also an innovation: as a result of the new ruling on air quality, the Italian City Councils will not only have to provide the updated data collected by the monitoring stations, but will also have to supply precise information about the type and source of the polluting agents in the urban areas. They will have to understand how the poisons move within the atmosphere of the cities, and how the toxic molecules combine with each other.

A station in operation in the city

Former Italian Minister for the Environment, Edo Ronchi

The measures adopted up to now, such as the alternating circulation of vehicles according to number plate, are no longer sufficient to resolve the problems of air quality, and the local administrations have now been given carte blanche. The number of vehicles circulating in the cities has reached such a high level that the systems adopted to date can no longer resolve the problem of pollution. In the meantime, after having closed the historic city centres to vehicles without catalytic mufflers, the various mayors realised that one of the major sources of pollution are the mopeds. In the city of Florence alone, 180,000 circulate very day, producing a type of pollution similar to that of lorries.

As a result of the ever more serious pollution of urban centres, the number of asthma sufferers has increased remarkably, as well as the cases of allergy and cancer involving predominantly children and old people.
The Minister of the Environment is in possession of only indicative data regarding the pollution caused by road traffic. He does not have the day-to-day data about the relative quantity of pollutants emitted by the exhausts of buses, lorries and cars in the urban centres of Italy. Finally, he has also made it clear that the re-location of industrial plants producing pollution has by now become essential.

What is certain is that city life is becoming increasing difficult, and it would appear that the moment has arrived to make radical choices if we really want to prevent our inner cities from becoming death-traps, with increasingly elevated costs both for the individual and for the community.

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