As football fans already know, next year is the World Cup. And this time, it’s Russia’s turn to host the world’s most popular sporting event. 

With the countdown now underway to the opening match, Greenpeace supporters asked us to check the air quality in six cities where games will be hosted: Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Nizhniy Novgorod, Yekaterinburg, Samara and Rostov-on-Don. Over a 24 hour period, air pollution measurements were conducted at 18 of the most crowded crossroads in these cities. And the results revealed that official limits for hazardous substances on almost all crossroads were exceeded.

Greenpeace Initiates an Independent Study on Air Quality in YekaterinburgA Greenpeace campaigner uses an air quality tester. 1 September, 2017.

Daily-mean concentration of nitrogen dioxide was exceeded on two crossroads in Moscow, alongside another crossroad in Saint Petersburg and one in Nizhniy Novgorod and Samara.

In Saint Petersburg, the daily-mean concentration of nitrogen monoxide was recorded at three times more than the Russian daily mean limit on one of the central streets (Sadovaya street). In Nizhny Novgorod, our research revealed the most polluted crossroad was near the Mayor’s house. This means that the very person with the power to tackle air pollution in the city also happens to be breathing the most polluted air.

According to Professor Boris Revich, Head of the Laboratory of Forecasting Environmental Quality and Public Health at the Russian Academy of Sciences, nitrogen dioxide and nitrogen monoxide are especially dangerous for children and may result in lung problems.

Epidemiological studies, Professor Revich said in an interview with Greenpeace, confirm that children suffering from asthma can develop more severe bronchitis if regularly exposed to nitrogen dioxide.  

The latest findings expand on research which showed that in Moscow the official limits for hazardous substances — including nitrogen dioxide, nitrogen monoxide and ozone — were exceeded near five kindergartens and one medical center.  

According to the World Health Organisation, nitrogen dioxide and nitrogen monoxide emissions are mainly caused by the transport sector. So, with several months to go before the World Cup begins, and with some infrastructure still being built, local authorities can still choose to invest in clean public transport and could create clean air zones. This alone will help limit the impact of polluted air, and leave a greener legacy for Russia’s cities.

Indeed, there are already reasons to have hope. Moscow recently declared it will roll out up to 900 electric buses in the city by 2021. And the mayor of Yekaterinburg has already signed a green mobility declaration with Greenpeace. We welcome other cities to join.

Greenpeace Russia is encouraging the governments of other World Cup cities to go further. And you can help keep the pressure on by adding your name to this petition.

Information and methodology about the study can be found here.

Richard Casson is a digital campaigner with Greepeace UK