Toxic Air Killed More Than 500,000 People in EU in 2021, Data Shows

Dirty air killed more than half a million people in the EU in 2021, estimates show, and about half of the deaths could have been avoided by cutting pollution to the limits recommended by doctors. From a report:

The researchers from the European Environment Agency attributed 253,000 early deaths to concentrations of fine particulates known as PM2.5 that breached the World Health Organization’s maximum guideline limits of 5ug/m3. A further 52,000 deaths came from excessive levels of nitrogen dioxide and 22,000 deaths from short-term exposure to excessive levels of ozone.

“The figures released today by the EEA remind us that air pollution is still the number one environmental health problem in the EU,” said Virginijus Sinkevicius, the EU’s environment commissioner. Doctors say air pollution is one of the biggest killers in the world but death tolls will drop quickly if countries clean up their economies. Between 2005 and 2021, the number of deaths from PM2.5 in the EU fell 41%, and the EU aims to reach 55% by the end of the decade. The WHO, which tightened its air quality guidelines in 2021, warns that no level of air pollution can be considered safe but has set upper limits for certain pollutants. The European parliament voted in September to align the EU’s air quality rules with the WHO’s but decided to delay doing so until 2035.

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