Pollution in Madrid

pollution in madrid affects health

Urban air pollution is one of the main drivers in the fight against the climate crisis. Its impact on health has important social and economic implications. The pollution in Madrid causes thousands of deaths each year associated with it. However, the measures taken to curb air pollution do not have a significant impact on improving air quality.

In this article we are going to tell you about the fundamental aspects of pollution in Madrid, the current situation and how it can be reversed.

Pollution in Madrid

pollution in madrid

Air quality in the Spanish capital has been affected in recent years due to various factors, such as traffic, industry and the weather. One of the main effects of pollution in Madrid is the appearance of respiratory diseases. Prolonged exposure to high levels of contaminants can lead to problems such as bronchitis, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). These diseases can seriously affect the quality of life of the people who suffer from them and in some cases can even be fatal.

The reduction of visibility is something that has become increasingly tangible in the city. High levels of airborne particles can make it difficult to see clearly, which can be dangerous for drivers and pedestrians. These polluted airborne particles can affect the quality of historical monuments and buildings, leading to a negative impact on tourism and the local economy.

pollution too it has a negative impact on nature and biodiversity. Emissions of polluting gases have a high probability of acidifying soils and waters, which may affect flora and fauna. Depending on weather conditions, it can cause acid rain, with serious consequences for crops and surrounding forests.

The economy is also affected by pollution in Madrid. And it is that companies are affected by the restrictions on the movement of vehicles and the obligation to reduce polluting emissions. To this we add that tourism can decrease due to poor air quality and reduced visibility, so the economy can be seriously affected.

Consequences of pollution in Madrid

pollution haze

The emission of toxic gases, mainly nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and suspended particles, have serious consequences for both health and the environment. Regarding health, air pollution can cause respiratory diseases, such as asthma, bronchitis or pneumonia, as well as cardiovascular diseases, among others. Besides, the effects are especially harmful in the most vulnerable groups, such as children, the elderly or people with previous health problems.

Another of the most obvious consequences of pollution in Madrid is the so-called "smog berets", a layer of low clouds that seems to envelop the city. These "berets" are caused by the polluting gases that are trapped in the atmosphere and that, added to other factors, such as thermal inversion, cause the pollution cloud not to disperse.

Main pollutants and their concentration

high levels of pollution

Nitrogen dioxide

The annual limit of nitrogen dioxide pollution is an annual average concentration of 40 micrograms of pollutants per cubic meter of air (μg/m3). Data from the Madrid Pollution Measurement Network show that in 2022 none of the 24 stations that measure this pollutant exceeded the annual limit. The traditionally most controversial traffic stop, Plaza Elíptica, registered only 40 µg/m3, reaching this limit. The two previous years, 2020 and 21, registered 41 µg/m3, so while it is possible to comply with the law, the improvement is minimal. This decrease is surely influenced by the fact that November and December 2022, the two months that usually record anticyclones and pollution peaks, were very rainy.

It is important to consider the situation in which the representations of pollution measurement stations can be replicated in different areas of the city. Thus, for example, the Plaza Elíptica station represents the air quality recorded around the entrance to the great metropolitan highway (A-42), as it is around the entrance to Madrid from other highways.

Suspended particles

Data collected in 2022 indicates that the situation with this pollutant has worsened compared to previous years. Despite compliance with current legal limits, the truth is that 8 of the 13 stations that measure PM10 and the network average exceed the annual limit proposed for future European legislation (20 μg/m3). All sites exceeded the WHO recommended value (15 µg/m3).

Regarding PM2,5 particles, Plaza Elíptica, one of the eight stations in the network that measure this pollutant, exceeded the annual legal limit (10 μg/m3) proposed for future European legislation. All sites greatly exceeded the current WHO recommended value (5 μg/m3).

tropospheric ozone

The situation with this contaminant has not improved either. During 2022, three of the 12 O3 measurement sites exceeded the eight-hour target value (120 µg/m3), exceeding the 25 times allowed by the regulations.

On the other hand, the legislation establishes a threshold for the provision of information to the public (180 μg/m3 for one hour). In 2022, 5 of the 12 sites measuring O3 pollution reported violations of this reporting threshold: El Pardo (4 times passed), Plaza del Carmen (3 times), Villaverde (1 time), Escuelas Aguirre (1 time) and Barajas Pueblo (1 time). This result represents a marked deterioration with respect to the data from the two previous years, in which there were no records above this threshold. The increase in ozone pollution peaks is undoubtedly related to the intense heat wave that will occur in the summer of 2022, confirming that climate change is a determining factor in the worsening of poor air quality events. ozone induced.

I hope that with this information you can learn more about pollution in Madrid and its consequences for health and the environment.

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