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Police Don Masks to Protest Pollution

November 8, 1986

ROME (AP) _ In a protest against Rome’s smog, traffic police wore surgeons’ masks with their stylish uniforms.

On Friday, in the central and heavily congested Piazza Venezia and elsewhere in the capital, motorists saw masked policemen directing traffic from pedestals with the usual flourish of white-gloved hands.

″After two to four hours at the intersection, you go home with inflamed lungs,″ explained one protester, 43-year-old Eugenio Mariani.

According to the Association of Roman Urban Police, 23 of 72 traffic police who died since 1980 had lung tumors. The group also claims street officers’ hearing decreases by 30 percent after five years in service.

As part of the protest, which is to continue through Monday, traffic police set up pollution monitors at main thoroughfares to show passers-by the quality of the air they breathe.

At rush hour, carbon monoxide levels reach 500 parts per 1 million in central Rome, eight times the level considered hazardous to human health.

Rome’s chaotic traffic has been targeted for decades.

Bologna and Siena successfully barred traffic from their historic centers. But most traffic-reduction plans have largely failed in Rome, although certain areas, such as Piazza Navona, have been declared off-limits to cars.