The poorest and most vulnerable individuals, children and pensioners – in Europe are also the most exposed to air and noise pollution, warns the European Environment Agency (the ‘AEE’) in a report published on Monday. “Generally speaking, the poorer you are in Europe, the greater the risks of living in an area with low air quality,” explains the Director of the AEE, Hans Bruyninckx.
The EU agency, based in Copenhagen, is publishing for the first time in 25 years “exploratory analysis” of the relationship between socio-economic and environmental inequalities, hence the conclusion it draws as to the need for coordinated policies in the sphere.
“The health of the most vulnerable remains affected disproportionately by the risks” linked to air and noise pollution, or even temperature extremes (cold and hot) warns the AEE. The regions of Eastern Europe (including Poland, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria) and southern Europe (Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece), which record higher rates of unemployment and lower than average levels of education, are therefore more exposed to fine particles (dust, smoke, soot and pollen) and to ozone.
In the same areas of Europe, the vulnerability of these populations, which have a higher than average age, “can reduce the capacity of individuals within these groups to respond to scorching heat, therefore having negative results from a health perspective,” adds the agency.