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Watchdog: Air pollution main environmental health hazard in Europe

Air pollution remains a leading cause of premature deaths in 41 European countries despite progress in cutting emissions, the European Union's environment watchdog said on Monday.

Stockholm, 23 November 2020 (dpa/MIA) — Air pollution remains a leading cause of premature deaths in 41 European countries despite progress in cutting emissions, the European Union’s environment watchdog said on Monday.

An estimated 417,000 premature deaths in 2018 were linked to particle pollution in the 41 countries surveyed.

The number included the then 28 EU member states, the Copenhagen-based European Environment Agency (EEA) said.

The report said that six EU members — Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech republic, Italy, Poland, and Romania — exceeded the bloc’s limit for particle pollution in 2018.

Meanwhile, Estonia, Finland, Iceland and Ireland were the only four European countries to record concentrations of particle pollution below the World Health Organization’s (WHO) stricter guidelines.

Particle pollution is a mixture of tiny particles and liquid droplets comprising several components, including acids, metals, soil or dust particles.

However, due to better air quality, about 60,000 fewer people’s lives were shortened due to particle pollution in 2018, compared with 2009, the report said.

“It is good news that air quality is improving thanks to the environmental and climate policies that we have been implementing.

“But we can’t ignore the downside – the number of premature deaths in Europe due to air pollution is still far too high,” said Virginijus Sinkevicius, European commissioner for environment, oceans and fisheries in a comment.

Ground-level ozone and nitrogen dioxide were other main causes for premature deaths, the report added.

The air pollutants can cause or worsen breathing problems, cardiovascular disease and cancer and lead to shortened lives.

Air pollution can also harm ecosystems by damaging soil, forests, lakes and rivers as well as reducing crop yields.

Road transport, agriculture, energy production, industry and households were main sources of air pollution.

The EEA said that, since 2000, emissions of nitrogen oxides from transport have declined significantly, as have pollutant emissions from energy production, while there was less progress in reduced emissions from buildings and agriculture.

Europe-wide environmental and climate policies — as well as those at the national and local level — contributed to the improvements.

The data was collected from more than 4,000 monitoring stations across Europe.

“The EEA’s data prove that investing in better air quality is an investment for better health and productivity for all Europeans,” Hans Bruyninckx, the head of EEA, said in a statement.

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