Air pollution is Europe’s greatest environmental health threat

According to the European Environment Agency, there are 630,000 premature deaths from environmental factors every year in the EU – 400,000 are caused by air pollution alone.

More than 400,000 people die each year in the European Union as a result of air pollution . This is the result of a report by the European Environment Agency (EEA). The report analyzed data on the impact of the environment on the health and well-being of Europeans. In addition to the 27 EU states, the EEA member states include Great Britain, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway and Turkey. Cooperating countries are Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania and North Macedonia.

According to this, air pollution remains the greatest environmental threat to health in Europe. In 1990, however, the number of premature deaths due to it was still one million.

In second place is noise pollution, which leads to 12,000 premature deaths, the report said. The effects of climate change are also increasingly having their share, for example heat waves and floods. People in urban environments are particularly affected by the consequences of climate change, said Catherine Ganzleben of the EEA. Other factors mentioned by the Environment Agency are chemical compounds, resistance to pathogens resulting from excessive use of antibiotics and polluted drinking water.

The clear difference between the countries in Eastern and Western Europe is also striking. In many Eastern European countries, the rate of premature deaths from environmental factors is much higher than in Western Europe. Bosnia-Herzegovina has the highest proportion of deaths related to environmental pollution (27 percent), while Iceland and Norway have the lowest (nine percent). The situation in Germany is therefore also comparatively good.

630,000 deaths annually from environmental factors

The studies are based on data from the World Health Organization (WHO) on the causes of death and disease from 2012. According to this, around 13 percent of annual deaths in the EU – the equivalent of 630,000 premature deaths – can be attributed to environmental factors and would therefore be avoidable. The most common causes of death include cancer, heart disease and strokes.

“While we in Europe see improvements in the environment and the Green Deal with a clear focus on a sustainable future, the report shows that action is needed to protect the most vulnerable in our society,” said EEA Executive Director Hans Bruyninckx . Poverty often goes hand in hand with living in a polluted environment and poor health. “Dealing with these issues must be part of an integrated approach to an inclusive and more sustainable Europe.”

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