Some 38,000 deaths were prevented last year in Europe, including several hundred in Belgium, due to reduced air pollution as a result of containment measures and the development of renewable energy, according to a study by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).
The authors of the study, based on data from several thousand air quality monitoring stations across Europe, estimate that a decrease in the use of fossil fuels in Europe has led to a reduction of about 14% in the average level of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution in 2020 compared to the previous year.
In addition, there was a 7% decrease in the concentration of fine particles and a 4% decrease in ozone levels in the air, thus avoiding 37,813 deaths due to air pollution.
In Belgium, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels have decreased by 13% compared to 2019, fine particulate matter (PM10) concentrations by 6% and ozone levels by 2%, the CREA study estimates.
This reduction in pollution reportedly prevented almost 650 premature deaths due to air pollution last year in Belgium.
For Brussels, more than 150 deaths per million inhabitants were avoided, which is a fairly low level compared to cities like Rome (more than 550 deaths avoided per million inhabitants), Paris and Zagreb (more than 420) or Athens (more than 340).
For the first time in the European Union, renewable energies overtook fossil fuels in electricity production last year, with levels of 38% and 37% respectively. The use of coal, which is particularly polluting and emits fine particles, fell by 20% last year and oil consumption for transport fell by more than 10%, the study by CREA pointed out.
The authors of the study also estimate that the reduction in air pollution in Europe has reduced the number of days of absence from work by 10 million, the number of cases of asthma in children by 17,000 and the number of premature births by 4,700.
It is estimated that air pollution causes more than 400,000 premature deaths annually across the European Union.
The Brussels Times