Air pollution still causes more than 500,000 early deaths per year in Europe even though it has declined slightly, the European Environment Agency said on Wednesday in its annual report. Hans Bruyninck, director of the Copenhagen-based agency, said it was encouraging to note that many European governments, and municipalities in particular, are setting an example and protecting people’s health by improving air quality.
Air pollution is the main environmental cause of premature deaths, which went from 550,000 in 2013 to just over 520,000 in 2014. According to the report, of the 520,400 premature deaths registered in the 41 European countries in 2014, four-fifths, or 428,000, were directly linked to fine particles present in the air, microscopic dust generated mainly by combustion fuel and judged harmful by the World Health Organization.
Within the European Union, these fine particles caused three out of four deaths linked to air pollution, i.e. 399,000 out of 487,600.
Data collected at monitoring centers show that in 2015, 82% of city dwellers were exposed to some level of fine particles, down from 85% in 2013.
The European Commission has resolved to tackle this problem and help member States ensure that the quality of the air their citizens breathe conforms to the highest standards, Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said in a press release.