Industrial air pollution costing Europe billions a year, says EEA

New research has revealed the "hidden costs" of industrial air pollution across Europe as data shows pollution caused by the 10,000 most polluting facilities resulted in costs of up to Euro169bn in 2009.

The study by the European Environment Agency (EEA) sought to analyse the costs of harm to health and the environment caused by air pollution from industrial facilities, such as large power plants, refineries, manufacturing combustion and industrial processes, waste and certain agricultural activities, with the aim of providing EU countries with greater information to guide policy.

Key findings from the research found that emissions from power plants contributed the largest share of the damage costs, an estimated Euro 66-112bn, while other significant contributions to the overall damage costs came from production processes Euro 23-28bn and manufacturing combustion Euro 8-21bn.

It also found that a small number of individual facilities were responsible for the majority of damage costs, with 75% of the total damage costs being caused by emissions from just 622 facilities, while 191 facilities were found to be responsible for 50% of the air pollution damage costs.

Commenting on the research, EEA executive director Professor Jacqueline McGlade, said: “Our analysis reveals the high cost caused by pollution from power stations and other large industrial plants.

“The estimated costs are calculated using the emissions reported by the facilities themselves. By using existing tools employed by policy-makers to estimate harm to health and the environment, we revealed some of the hidden costs of pollution. We cannot afford to ignore these issues.”

As a result, costs of approximately Euro 200 – 330 per person were caused, with countries such as the UK, France, Italy, Poland and Germany adding the most to the total damage cost.

According to the report, carbon emissions were found to contribute the most to the overall damage costs, approximately Euro 63bn in 2009, while air pollutants, which contribute to acid rain and can cause respiratory problems such as sulphur dioxide (SO2), ammonia (NH3), particulate matter (PM10) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) were found to cause Euro 38-105bn worth of damage a year.

The full report can be downloaded here.

Carys Matthews

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