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Milan bans heavy vehicles, imposes antismog measures during bout of air pollution

MILAN (AP) – Italy’s northern Lombardy region imposed severe antismog measures across Milan and eight surrounding provinces on Tuesday to combat a particularly bad period of air pollution.

The measures bar heavy motor vehicles from operating during the day and impose limits on heating and industrial agricultural activities in the nine provinces.

A lack of rain and wind has exacerbated air pollution levels in Italy, particularly in the mostly land-locked and industrial northern Po River Valley. Parts of the Italian peninsula are frequently hit by periods of bad air quality in winter, thanks to a combination of low rainfall, industrial and vehicle emissions and mountain ranges that trap the smog.

Overall, Italy leads Europe for deaths attributed to atmospheric pollution with around 80,000 deaths a year, according to the Italian Society for Environmental Medicine.

In announcing the restrictions, the regional government cited levels of particulate matter above accepted levels and weather forecasts indicating the smog won’t lift anytime soon.

Italian environmentalist group Citizens for Air said the situation is severe and requires strict measures to limit vehicular, heating and farming pollution.

“Current pollution thresholds are fully unsatisfactory to protect our health, this is what the World Health Organization says,” said head of Italy Citizens for Air campaign Anna Gerometta. The Italian government recently approved a decree to allow several northern Italian regions, among the most polluted in the country, to postpone a ban on diesel cars on the grounds that consumers and businesses couldn’t transition so quickly to low-emission or zero-transmission cars.

In imposing the antismog measures on Tuesday, Lombardy officials nevertheless insisted the situation overall was improving on the basis of annual data.

Lombardy’s assessor for environment and climate, Giorgio Maione, said particulate matter levels had fallen over 20 years and that investments in sustainable energy renovations over the past five years have amounted to EUR19 billion.

A man walks on a bridge shrouded in mist and smog at the Naviglio Pavese canal in Milan. PHOTO: AP