Premature deaths caused by fine particle air pollution have fallen by 10% per year across Europe, but the invisible killer still accounts for 307,000 premature deaths per year, the European Agency for Human Rights said on Monday. ‘environment.
If the latest World Health Organization air quality guidelines were followed by EU members, the latest number of deaths recorded in 2019 could be halved, EEA report says .
Fatalities related to fine particles – less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter or PM2.5 – were estimated at 346,000 for 2018.
The sharp reduction in deaths for the following year was attributed in part to favorable weather conditions but more importantly to a gradual improvement in air quality across the continent, the pollution data center said. air from the European Union.
In the early 1990s, fine particles, which penetrate deep into the lungs, caused nearly one million premature deaths in the 27 EU member countries, according to the report.
This figure had been reduced by more than half to 450,000 in 2005.
In 2019, fine particles caused 53,800 premature deaths in Germany, 49,900 in Italy, 29,800 in France and 23,300 in Spain.
Poland recorded 39,300 deaths, the highest figure per capita.
The EEA also records premature deaths linked to two other main pollutants, but says it does not count them in its overall toll to avoid doubling.
Nitrogen dioxide deaths – mainly from cars, trucks and thermal power plants – fell by a quarter to 40,000 between 2018 and 2019.
Ground-level ozone-related deaths in 2019 also fell 13% to 16,800 deaths.
Air pollution remains the biggest environmental threat to human health in Europe, the agency said.
Heart disease and stroke are the cause of most premature deaths attributed to air pollution, followed by lung conditions, including cancer.
In children, air pollution can interfere with lung development, cause respiratory infections and make asthma worse.
Even as the situation improves, the EEA warned in September that most EU countries were still above recommended pollution limits, whether through EU directives or more ambitious targets. of the WHO.
According to the United Nations health organization, air pollution causes seven million premature deaths each year worldwide, the same as smoking and unhealthy diet.
In September, alarming statistics led the WHO to tighten its recommended limits on key air pollutants for the first time since 2005.
“Investing in cleaner heating, mobility, agriculture and industry improves the health, productivity and quality of life of all Europeans, and in particular the most vulnerable,” said Hans Bruyninck, Director of the EEA .
The EU wants to reduce premature deaths from fine air pollution by at least 55% in 2030 compared to 2005.
If air pollution continues to decline at the current rate, the agency estimates the target will be met by 2032.
However, an aging and increasingly urbanized population could make this more difficult.
“An older population is more sensitive to air pollution and a higher rate of urbanization generally means more people are exposed to PM 2.5 concentrations, which tend to be higher in cities.” , indicates the report.