Speed limits, environmental zones, increase in fuel prices: The Munich scientists Eva Rehfuess and Jacob Burns have investigated what helps against dirty air.
The international research network Cochrane is known for a rigorous review of scientific studies. For the first time, it has dealt with air pollution control measures. How effective are speed limits, environmental zones or other regulations? The Cochrane researchers Eva Rehfuess and Jacob Burns of the LMU in Munich have with the South German newspaper talked about the results.
SZ: With the stern eye of the Cochrane authors: Do you still have doubts about the harmfulness of air pollution for your health?
Jacob Burns: No, we have no doubt about that. For decades, thousands of studies have shown the harmfulness of air pollutants. Especially particulate matter is problematic. It can lead to chronic respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
So it seems beyond question to reduce pollutants …
Burns: Just as an increase in the concentration of air pollutants leads to damage to health, lowering concentration leads to an improvement in health. However, it was not clear what measures could be taken to achieve these goals. That was the starting point of our work.
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And what measures can you recommend?
Burns: The studies we evaluated show mostly positive or unclear effects. However, these studies looked at different air pollutants in very different places – and with different methods. We can therefore not draw generalized conclusions for or against a specific measure. But that does not mean that we oppose action. Just because no effect can be proven does not mean that there is no effect.
But nobody knows exactly what, for example, the environmental zones actually bring?
Burns: We have a little more evidence in this area. There are studies from German cities, also from Munich. They show that after the introduction of the zones the air has improved. But we can not say to what extent the health of the inhabitants benefited from this. This has not been studied in the studies.