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Austria scores badly for air quality

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Austria scores badly for air quality
Tyrol has the best air quality in Austria. Photo: APA
16:44 CEST+02:00
A new website which compares regional well-being across OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries shows that whilst Austria generally performs well, poor air quality is an issue.

The OECD’s interactive website on well-being covers the organisation’s 34 member countries. It rates 362 regions with a relative score out of 10 in eight categories: income, health, safety, services, civic engagement, education, jobs, and environment.

The eight well-being factors are based on data measured at regional level on household income, life expectancy, homicide rates, broadband access, voter turnout, level of education in the workforce, employment rates and particulate matter in the air.

Austrian regions have the least variation in household income but overall Austria has low scores for air quality - which may come as a surprise to some inhabitants of the Alpine Republic, which has a reputation for clean water and fresh air.

Voralberg has the worst air quality in Austria, with two out of ten points which puts it in the bottom four percent, compared across all OECD regions. Vienna is not much better, with 2.5 points, and Tyrol has the best air quality, with 5.8 points. In comparison, Greater London, in the UK, scored 6.3 points for air quality.

The data for air quality comes from satellites which observe air pollution around the world, and is based on the regional average measurement of the number of people exposed to air pollution - but the figures are currently only an estimate, cautions Monica Brezzi, head of Territorial Analysis and Statistics at the OECD.

Brezzi told The Local there is currently no agreement to measure air pollution using one single, comparable method across OECD countries, but she hopes there will be in the future. Data for the seven other categories comes from each country’s National Statistics Office.

Air quality is still an issue for Austria despite substantial progress in reducing emissions, especially during the 1980s, Brezzi said.

The European Environment Agency noted in its Environmental Outlook of 2010 that the limit value for the daily mean of particulate matter (50 g/m not to be exceeded more than 35 times per year) was exceeded in several provincial capitals and small towns in Austria, while it was met in many places in the UK.

Overall Austria has quite a high-level of well-being, and as it is a small country there is less regional disparity, which is a good thing according to Brezzi.

The capital, Vienna, has better access to services and a higher average household income than the rest of the country but it does less well for employment, health, and education - which Brezzi said comes as a surprise as usually you would expect a metropolis to be a jobs hub.

She hopes the well-being website will start a conversation about the data, both at government and grass-roots level, but that the idea was not to swamp people with very detailed information.

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