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EU Urban Mobility Observatory
News article5 November 20181 min read

Air pollution is biggest health threat in Europe

At the end of October, the European Environment Agency published its report on 'Air Quality in Europe 2018'. It notes that levels of air pollution are still too high and that this is the main reason for premature deaths in 41 European countries.

The report is based on data from 2 500 measuring stations across Europe and identifies that progress has been slow in reducing air pollution to the levels set by the European Union and the World Health Organisation. Taking the year 2015, the results show that there were 442 000 premature deaths due to air pollution, 391 000 of which were in the 28 EU Member States. Shortened life spans result from illnesses such as serious breathing difficulties, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Pollutants, such as particulate matter, ground-level ozone and nitrogen dioxide, are the main reason that air pollution triggers such diseases.

The report notes that road traffic, energy production, agriculture, industry and households are the main polluters. EEA director Hans Bruyninckx stated that, ‘emissions from road traffic are often worse [in their impacts] than those of other emitters’, since they are released at the ground level and most often in cities and thus in direct proximity to people. However, air pollution also negatively impacts ecosystems, such as soil, forests, lakes and rivers, as well as reducing the amount of crops that are harvested.

Stricter regulations for clean air and improved emission standards for transport, energy production and industry in general have halved the number of premature deaths from air pollution since 1990. Nevertheless, emissions and their negative impacts are still too high today.

Story first published by on 29th of October 2018.



Publication date
5 November 2018
  • Policy and research
  • Europe-wide