Air pollution killing 430,000 Europeans a year

Air pollution is responsible for up to 430,000 premature deaths a year across Europe, a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) has found.

The report claims that air pollution is the single largest environmental health risk in Europe, contributing to serious illnesses such as heart disease, respiratory problems cancer.

“Despite continuous improvements in recent decades, air pollution is still affecting the general health of Europeans, reducing their quality of life and life expectancy,’ said EEA executive director Hans Bruyninckx.

“It also has considerable economic impacts, increasing medical costs and reducing productivity through working days lost across the economy.”

Other losses included damage to ‘culturally significant’ buildings and lower crop yields.

In 2013, 87% of the urban population in the EU were exposed to levels of particulate matter pollution that exceeded values identified by the WHO as safe.

Although the EU’s own air quality standards are less strict – only 9% of the urban population was exposed to too much particulate matter under EU guidelines – the EEA report said bringing pollution levels in line with the WHO standard would result in 144,000 fewer premature deaths a year.

In late 2013, the European Commission (EC) proposed a new Clean Air Policy Package, which sought to update existing legislation controlling harmful emissions from industry, traffic, energy plants and agriculture, but the package has yet to be passed.


The UK is one of the worst-performing EU member states, with approximately 37,800 deaths from air pollution in 2013, the most recent year with available data. That’s the fifth worst number in Europe after Germany, Italy, Poland and France.

Earlier this year the UK was found to be breach of European air quality standards and ordered to draw up plans to reduce the amount of nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere.

The World Health Organisation claims the UK could save £53bn a year if pollution levels dropped.

In London alone, air pollution killed 9,500 people in 2010, according to a recent report from the mayor’s office.

However, even the EU’s issue pales in comparison with China, where air pollution kills an average of 4,000 people every day, and around 1.6 million people a year, according to researchers at Berkeley Earth.

Universal solutions include phasing out coal-fired power generation and reducing the amount of diesl cars on the road

Brad Allen


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