By Alyssa McMurtry
Spain’s capital has for the first time restricted traffic because of high levels of air pollution.
Police started to enforce some of the most severe restrictions in the city’s history on Tuesday.
Officers started to warn and ticket drivers breaking the special restrictions which aim to combat dangerously high levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air.
This is the first time Spain’s capital has banned nearly half of its vehicles from circulating. On Thursday, vehicles with license plates that end in an even number were not allowed on the roads.
If the air quality does not improve, the other 50 percent of vehicles will be banned on Friday. Hybrid or electric cars, vehicles for public transport or emergency vehicles are exceptions.
Police are also enforcing other extraordinary limitations, such as reduced speed limits on freeways plus parking bans.
“It’s a question of public health. There are people with respiratory problems that are suffering a lot,” Deputy Mayor Marta Higueras told a city hall meeting.
Air pollution causes around 467,000 premature deaths in Europe every year, warned the European Environmental Agency in November. According to Clean Air Europe, the quality of Madrid’s air is one of the worst on the continent.
Air pollution can lead to heart disease and stroke, lung cancer and chronic or acute respiratory diseases such as asthma or bronchitis, according to the World Health Organization.
To improve the air quality, Madrid, along with Paris, Mexico City and Athens announced in December they would ban diesel cars by 2025.