Since 2005, Europe has experienced a steady improvement in overall air quality. Emissions of air pollution are declining despite an increase in gross domestic production over the same period. However, the latest readings suggest that levels of air pollutants above the EU standards are still seen across the continent, posing a major health risk.
Children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable
The high levels of air pollutants are a major health concern across Europe. Children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects due to their bodies, and immune systems still developing. Due to this, they can do precious little to protect themselves. As many as 1.200 deaths in the population under 18 are estimated to be caused by air pollution every year in EEA member and collaborating countries.
In 2020, 96% of the European urban population was exposed to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) above the guideline set by WHO (World Health Organization) causing an estimated 275.000 premature deaths across Europe. The year after, in 2021, the percentage rose to 97%
These are alarming statistics, to be sure, and there is no denying that air pollution poses a significant health risk to European citizens. However, it’s worth noting that the number of premature deaths caused by PM2.5 levels above the WHO guidelines has declined by 45% between 2005 and 2020. The increasing urbanizing and aging population during the same period are also contributing factors. Older people are more sensitive to pollution, and rising urbanization simply leads to more people being exposed.
The right path on dealing with air pollution
Although several factors may help us better understand current trends and statistics, we should not become complacent and expect the issues to resolve themselves. The number of premature deaths is too high, and the harmful effects can lead to lowered life quality, morbidity, and significant costs in the healthcare sector.
We’re on the right path. Having said that, it’s vital that we maintain our efforts to further improve air quality in Europe and the world. We now have the proper tools but most importantly: we have become more aware over the past two decades and are now better equipped to ensure clean air for the generations to come.
Please click these links to read more about official air pollution statistics and findings in the EU regarding relevant health issues: