Europeans dying almost nine months early due to air pollution

Evidence showing that air pollution shortens each EU citizen's life expectancy by an average of eight and a half months, has been highlighted in a report from the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Published by the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, entitled ‘Environment and human health, the report says that air pollution contributes to cancer, heart disease, bronchitis and asthma.

In addition, the report highlights an increasing health concern surrounding water quality, which is being tarnished by pharmaceutical residues and endocrine-disrupting substances, not always fully removed by water treatment.

Furthermore, water shortages and water quality issues may be exacerbated by climate change, claims the EEA.

According to the report, recent studies of air pollution suggest that exposure in early life can significantly affect adult health, and the effect of air pollution on pregnancy may be comparable to that of passive smoking.

Up to 95% of city dwellers are still exposed to levels of fine Particulate Matter (PM) above World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.

EEA executive director Jacqueline McGlade said: “This report really reinforces some of the key links between health and the environment. People are now exposed to many different harmful factors, which together are reducing both lifespans and wellbeing.”

The report also suggests that there is large disparity in the environmental conditions across Europe, which is often reflected in different levels of health and life expectancy.

For example, all cities in Sweden and Finland have more than 40% green space within their boundaries, while all Hungarian and Greek cities have less than 30%.

Conor McGlone

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