Air pollution still remains the single largest environmental health hazard in Europe, says the European Environment Agency. According to EEA, about half a million premature deaths per year are caused by the air pollution.
The agency said in a report on Wednesday that air pollution was linked to about 467,000 early deaths in 41 European countries in 2013. The EEA report presented an updated overview and analysis of air quality in Europe from 2000 to 2014.
The EEA also said almost nine out of 10 European city dwellers breathed air that was harmful to their health.
The EEA said air quality was slowly improving across the continent. “Emissions of the main air pollutants in Europe have declined in recent decades, resulting in generally improved air quality across the region.”
The report is based on data from official monitoring stations in more than 400 European cities. It said emissions of nitrogen oxides, which are linked to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, from road transport had not fallen “sufficiently.”
Hans Bruyninckx, the EEA executive director, said in a statement that air pollution was still causing damage to human health. “Emission reductions have led to improvements in air quality in Europe, but not enough to avoid unacceptable damage to human health and the environment.”
Data from monitoring stations across Europe showed that in 2014 about 85 percent of the urban population was exposed to fine particulate matter (PM), microscopic specks of dust and soot caused mainly by burning fossil fuels, at levels deemed harmful to health by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Reacting to the report, EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella said, “If a lot of air quality blackspots are in towns and cities, then it is clear that local and regional governments play a central role in finding solutions.”