EU air quality improved but has a long way to go

Air pollution in Europe has decreased since the turn of the millennium but stronger measures are needed. That’s according to a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA), which […]

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By Jonny Bairstow

Air pollution in Europe has decreased since the turn of the millennium but stronger measures are needed.

That’s according to a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA), which studied air quality trends from 2000 to 2014.

Although the average amount of harmful particulate matter (PM) fell in 75% of monitored locations over the period, it’s still the single largest environmental health hazard on the continent, it states.

The report blames PM for more than 467,000 deaths a year and Nitrogen Dioxide for 71,000 deaths a year.

In 2014, 85% of the urban population was still exposed to PM levels deemed harmful to health by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Around 7% of people were still exposed to harmful Nitrogen Dioxide levels – 94% of this coming from traffic, it adds.

Ammonia emissions from agriculture and PM emissions from household coal and wood burning didn’t significantly change over the 14 years studied, suggesting increased public guidance and government measures need to be implemented.

EEA Executive Director Hans Bruyninckx said: “Emission reductions have led to improvements in air quality in Europe but not enough to avoid unacceptable damage to human health and the environment.

“We need to tackle the root causes of air pollution, which calls for a fundamental and innovative transformation of our mobility, energy and food systems. This process of change requires action from us all, including public authorities, businesses, citizens and research community.”

The UK government has been ordered to create an improved plan to tackle the air pollution crisis after it was ruled they were failing in their attempts.