Could this place kill me? The ultimate question for homeowners

You are buying a house and want to know the basics. Is the roof ok; can you borrow sugar from the handsome neighbour; is this house going to end up killing you in the most insidious way? The latter isn’t information you will get from even the most honest of estate agents. But it might soon be a question you will ask, thanks to some pioneering research from an Italian T&E member that maps the spread of toxic NO2 fumes, mainly from diesel vehicles.

The map, unveiled yesterday in Milan

Milan isn’t top of most people’s list of holiday-home locations. Yet it is here that researchers yesterday unveiled the most detailed map of air pollution yet seen in Italy. Fed up of inaction by the authorities, hundreds of citizens placed air testing kits around the city. Over half showed illegal levels of NO2. No wonder, with nine out of 10 of even the newest diesel vehicles spewing out illegal levels of pollution. While this kind of citizen science movement against air pollution is growing across Europe, NGO organiser Cittadini per l’Aria went a step further by inviting a renowned biostatician to work with the findings. Massimo Stafoggia applied machine learning technology to the data to predict how NO2 would disperse across Milan and predict future health impacts, street by street. The result: a full 5% of all premature deaths in the city are from illegal levels of NO2. This is life and death information for house hunters.

But we should not accept the situation as it is. Nobody should have to ask such morbid questions when looking for a place to live. Such maps will surely galvanise thousands more in the war being fought to breathe clean air. They also make very clear the culprit – polluting vehicles. The citizens who spent €30 to buy a test kit want a solution, not just a threat analysis. The findings will be used to pressure the authorities. Cittadini per l’Aria pressured Milan city council into agreeing a diesel ban by 2025. In a press conference yesterday, it called for a faster phase-out. And it is not resting on its laurels. It won a regional case last year and is considering further legal proceedings. Meanwhile, inaction at a national level prompted the European Commission last week to start legal action at the highest level. The writing is clearly on the wall for dirty diesel transport and its demise can’t come soon enough for its victims

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About the author

Jens Müller's picture

Air Quality Coordinator