Improving air quality in European cities will bring major health benefits

Most people living in European cities are exposed to poor air quality. Latest estimates by the European Environment Agency (EEA) show that fine particulate matter continues to cause the premature death of more than 400,000 Europeans annually. Road transport, agriculture, power plants, industry and households are the biggest emitters of air pollutants in Europe.

The EEA’s Air quality in Europe — 2017 report presents an updated analysis of air quality and its impacts, based on official data from more than 2,500 monitoring stations across Europe in 2015. The report was launched by the EEA during the European Week of Regions and Cities 2017.

The data show that air quality in Europe is slowly improving, thanks to past and current policies and technological developments. However, high concentrations of air pollution still have significant impacts on Europeans health, with particulate matter (PM), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ground-level ozone (O3) causing the biggest harm.

According to the report, PM2.5 concentrations were responsible for an estimated 428,000 premature deaths in 41 European countries in 2014, of which around 399,000 were in the EU-28. Poor air quality also has considerable economic impacts, increasing medical costs, reducing workers productivity, and damaging soil, crops, forests, lakes and rivers.

This year’s report also puts special focus on agriculture, which is an important emitter of air pollutants and greenhouse gases. A wide range of actions, including technically and economically viable measures, are available to reduce emissions from agriculture but have yet to be adopted at the scale and intensity needed, the report notes.

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