Pollution levels are still too high despite an improvement in air quality, according to a new report by the European Environment Agency (EEA).
The latest air quality health assessment published on Friday points out that all 27 EU member states are failing to meet their own standards, let alone those set by the World Health Organization (WHO), and that this is threatening the health of Europeans.
“There are, of course, many different air pollutants, but they pick the one that is most severe or most harmful are fine particles,” Leena Ylä-Mononen, Director of the European Environment Agency told Euronews.
“The latest estimation is that 253,000 deaths can be attributed to this pollutant (in 2021) and these indeed could be prevented by right measures.”
The number of deaths linked to fine particle matter concentrations fell by 41% between 2005 and 2021, but the EEA warned that member states must continue their efforts to reduce levels further.
Nitrogen dioxide pollution is responsible for about 52,000 deaths while short-term exposure to ozone is responsible for 22,000 attributable deaths in the EU.
In cities, transport is the main source of pollution. In some regions, domestic heating using solid fuels, such as coal or wood also affects air quality. All of these cumulative phenomena can cause or exacerbate illness, according to the EEA director.
“In the most severe cases, it causes illnesses that quickly lead to death. Lung cancer is one example,” Ylä-Mononen said.
“But it is also important to note, and this is the first time our report has examined in more detail various diseases, what is the impact of air pollution in worsening these diseases, like asthma or chronic heart disease.
“So, it is the quality of life that in many ways is hampered by polluted air still today in Europe.”
The European agency also emphasises that climate change, and in particular the increase in temperatures in cities, threatens air quality and therefore the health of Europeans.