Milan’s mayor, Giuliano Pisapia, called the traffic ban “a response to an exceptional emergency,” according to The Local. “The measure does not bring the city to a standstill, but it does have a strong deterrent effect,” he added.
High pollution levels across Italy have been blamed on extremely dry and unseasonably warm conditions across the European nation—conditions that have allowed emissions from vehicles, furnaces, and industrial factories to sit in the air.
Breathing dirty air is nothing new for residents. A report from the European Environment Agency found that Italy has the most polluted air in Europe. It’s so smoggy there that in 2012 more than 84,000 Italians died prematurely from poor air quality. Officials in the country said that an increase in acute cardiovascular disease has been reported since this latest spike in toxic air began, according to The Local.
Kicking cars, motorcycles, and scooters off roads even for a few hours has been shown to clear the skies. In late September when Paris banned vehicles from the city center on a Sunday, levels of the pollutant nitrogen dioxide dropped as much as 40 percent when compared with a week earlier, when cars were present.