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On ‘Wind-days’ the local population is advised to minimise exposure to pollution

The steel mill’s dust engulfs the city, but school windows need to stay open due to Covid-19

The residents of Taranto have been struggling with air pollution long before the Covid-19 pandemic. They are now caught in the crossfire of two public health emergencies that require local authorities to take action and demand the shutting down of the polluting premises.
8 October 2020
Taranto’s City Committee for Health and the Environment

Based on a decree from the Apulian regional government (n. 1944 – 02/10/2012) which aims at curbing pollution from PM10 and benzo(a)pyrene, the Apulian Regional Agency for Environmental Protection (ARPA) has set up ‘Wind-days’ for the city of Taranto. These are days in which the wind blows from the Ilva steel mill – the largest in Europe - to its adjacent residential neighbourhoods, engulfing them with its dust and toxic compounds. A residential neighbourhood in Taranto during a 'wind-day' in July 2020.

On these ‘Wind-days’ the local population is advised by the local public health authorities to minimise exposure to pollution by reducing outdoor activities in the morning and late evening. In addition to this, residents are asked to ventilate their homes only between 12pm and 6pm, when pollution levels are supposedly lower. 

These public health recommendations translate into operational guidelines for schools and should be enforced by the mayor of Taranto. Schools are required to ventilate classrooms between 12pm and 6pm on ‘Wind-days’ to reduce concentrations of PM10. These guidelines nevertheless clash with more recent public health directions, which stress on the importance of continuous ventilation in classrooms to reduce risk of Covid-19 infection among pupils. The contradiction between these two different procedures create a public health dilemma which urges immediate action from the local and national authorities.

Taranto’s City Committee for Health and the Environment stresses that it is the mayor’s duty to push for the halting of the hot rolling mills of the factory in order to safeguard the public health of the residents. To curb the spread of Covid in classrooms, which now need steady ventilation, it is also necessary to interrupt all industrial activity that drastically increases the production of PM10.

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