Air pollution in Europe causes hundreds of thousands premature deaths

Poor air across Europe caused up to 412,000 premature deaths in 2016, according to an EU report released last Wednesday. According to the European Environmental Agency, city dwellers across the continent are at risk of life-threatening air pollution, and Member States should take rapid action to tackle the issue. The report cited WHO figures that pointed at heart disease and stroke as the most common reasons for premature death due to air pollution, followed by lung diseases and lung cancer.

2016 is the most recent year data about air pollution is available. It shows that 16 Member States have reported at least one case of unacceptable levels of nitrogen dioxide that surpass legal EU limits. Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain were all found to have unsafe levels of the poisonous gas that is found in car exhausts.

An air quality expert at the EEA and author of the report, Alberto Gonzales Ortiz, warned that air pollution is “currently the most important environmental risk to human health.” The report recommends EU countries to reduce the number of cars in order to lower nitrogen dioxide levels, and therefore air pollution.

In July the Commission, said Spain and Bulgaria had failed to protect citizens from the dangers of pollution. The Commission requested the EU Court of Justice to address poor air quality in those countries.

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