98% of European citizens breathe air polluted by fine particles called “PM2.5”, which are responsible for almost 400,000 deaths a year, according to a Guardian survey published this Wednesday, September 20.
A warning study of air pollution levels in the Old Continent. A survey suggests that almost all Europeans (98%) breathe air polluted by fine particles called “PM2.5”. Guardian Published this Wednesday. These Europeans live in areas that exceed the limit of five micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) set by the WHO.
To arrive at this observation, the British newspaper relied on detailed satellite imagery and measurements from more than 1,400 ground-based monitoring stations. These results confirm the serious public health crisis facing Europe, as this source of pollution is responsible for 400,000 deaths every year on the continent.
As a reminder, “PM2.5” is tiny airborne particles from fossil fuels. They pass through the lungs and enter the bloodstream, affecting all organs in the body.
Almost two-thirds of Europeans live in areas with air pollution twice the intergovernmental agency’s recommendations. 30 million Europeans live in areas where concentrations of fine particles are at least four times higher than the limits set by the WHO.
Eastern Europe is more affected than Western Europe
Eastern Europe is more affected than Western Europe by this fine particle pollution, except for Italy, where the northern part of the country breathes air loaded with “PM2.5” four times the values set by the WHO.
North Macedonia is the most affected country in Europe. Two-thirds of the country’s population lives in areas where concentrations of “PM2.5” are four times higher than World Health Organization guidelines.
The data reveals that almost all people living in seven Eastern European countries – Serbia, Romania, Albania, North Macedonia, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary – are exposed to twice as much air as recommended by the WHO.
In Germany, three-quarters of the population lives more than twice the value recommended by the WHO. In Spain the figure is 49% and in France 37%. Conversely, parts of northern Scotland are below some intergovernmental system thresholds in Europe.
Poor countries are the most affected
The largest sources of “PM2.5” emissions include transportation, industry, domestic heating and agriculture. The impact of the latter hits the poorest communities hardest.
“The most affected countries are those with lower average incomes, with few exceptions, which explains the level of environmental injustice we experience in the EU. There is an urgent need to clean up the air, especially in Eastern Europe, to provide equal opportunities to live in good health across Europe,” said Professor of Environmental Epidemiology at the University of Düsseldorf. Researched by Barbara Hoffman.
Last week, the European Parliament voted in favor of adopting WHO guidelines on “PM2.5” by 2035. The legislation, which will be finalized in negotiations with the Council, will set a legally binding limit for annual concentrations of “PM2.5”. 5 µg/m3, compared to today’s 25 µg/m3.
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