Barcelona Field Studies Centre

Barcelona: Urban Pollution

Noise Pollution
 Causes Consequences
• Traffic and industry

In Barcelona, the effect of noise is further aggravated by high concentrations of people living together (30,000/km²). The noise pressure comes from road traffic, air traffic, railways and construction activity

The province of Barcelona is host to some 1,900,000 vehicles, representing a ratio of 0.4 vehicles per inhabitant.

• Tourism

Tourists frequently stay late into the night playing music in the squares. the Old Town (Ciutat Vella) is particularly badly affected


• Noise is an intense factor in affecting human health.

Harmful environmental noise is defined as daytime, evening and night-time noise levels exceeding 65 - 60 - 55 decibels, depending on the source of noise

Over half of Barcelona's population is subjected to noise levels over 65 decibels during the entire day (0800-2200 hours) which explains why locals have to shout to make themselves heard.


noise level
less than 55 dB(A)
55 to 65 dB(A)
more than 65 dB(A)
percentage of population



Air Pollution
Causes Consequences
• Traffic and industry

The industries in the Besòs area have largely been replaced by service companies, producing a marked drop in atmospheric emissions for the whole area

Private traffic is the main producer of pollution in the Barcelona Region. The number of private vehicles on the road grows every year. Although older vehicles are being replaced by newer, less polluting ones, the increase in the number of cars on the road has more than offset cleaner combustion. The building of ring roads has increased the use of private vehicles.

• Gas-fired heating systems also cause air pollution


•  Illegal burning of industrial materials (tyres, for example) which is currently done almost anywhere in the area.



• The main environmental problems associated with air emissions are harm to human health, the acidification and eutrophication of water and soils, and damage to natural ecosystems, buildings and crops.

• Barcelona, summer period: It is estimated that over 66% of the population are affected by ozone levels in excess of 180ug/m3, and that over 66% of the population have been exposed to maximum NO2 levels in excess of 200 um/m3. These figures are above the recommended WHO levels.




Land-based Pollution
Causes Consequences
• Factory closures


• Soil pollution from toxic waste


• Derelict areas include sites that have formerly been used as factories, etc., but have been closed down; the areas remain unused and undeveloped for any other purposes. 

• Industrial sites deposit pollutants on the ground they occupy and by leaks from tanks and underground pipes. The pollution comes to light when industrial areas are dismantled and given over to other uses, La Llagosta (now the Olympic Village) and the coastal strip of Sant Adrià and Besòs-Montgat provide examples of this problem.

• Domestic waste

Street waste storage bins are a characteristic of Barcelona streets. The most densely populated districts often have refuse spilling from the bins onto the streets.


• This creates offensive odours, is an eyesore and a health hazard, particularly in the summer heat. Collections are made at night, creating a great deal of noise.
• Sewer system's capacity can be surpassed when there is torrential rain • Causes surface flooding and direct discharges to the sea via the overflows. Raw sewage is washed onto the beaches