European urbanites breathing highly polluted air: report

November 19, 2014
Credit: Alfred Palmer/Wikipedia

As many as nine in 10 European city dwellers breathe air high in pollutants, blamed for 400,000 premature deaths every year, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said Wednesday.

Air pollution remains the top environmental cause of in urban Europe, according to an analysis of data from almost 400 cities.

"European citizens often breathe air that does not meet European standards," said the agency's annual report.

"Almost all are exposed to pollutants at levels deemed unsafe by the World Health Organisation (WHO)," added a statement—more than 95 percent are exposed to unsafe levels of some types.

Heart disease and stroke are the most common causes (80 percent) of death due to air pollution, followed by lung diseases and cancer.

"The effect of air pollution on health has considerable economic impacts, cutting lives short, increasing medical costs and reducing productivity through working days lost across the economy," said the report.

It cited WHO and European Commission statistics attributing more than 400,000 premature deaths to ambient air pollution every year.

Based on 2011 concentrations and population data, this translated to an estimated 458,000 deaths in 40 countries in Europe, or 430,000 in the 28 EU member states.

Last year, the EC estimated the damage costs of air pollution's health impacts in 2010 at 330-940 billion euros ($413 billion to $1.2 trillion), it added.

"Direct economic damage includes 15 billion euros from workdays lost, and four billion euros in healthcare costs.

The most dangerous pollutant was fine (PM)—microscopic specks of dust and soot caused mainly by burning fossil fuels.

PM10, particulate matter measuring less than 10 microns, or 10 millionths of a metre, can lodge in the airways, causing respiratory problems.

More perilous still are smaller PM2.5 particles which can enter the lungs and even the bloodstream.

The report said 10-14 percent of city dwellers in the EU were exposed to PM2.5 levels above the EU target.

This increases to 91-93 percent if stricter, but non-binding, WHO guidelines are used.

The report said particulate matter and ozone had declined slightly over the last decade, though levels of nitrogen dioxide, mainly from car emissions, did not fall as fast as expected.

A hydrocarbon called benzo(a)pyrene (BaP) was the fastest growing pollutant—increasing by more than a fifth between 2003 and 2012 as use of woodstoves and biomass heating in cities increased.

"In 2012, almost nine out of ten city dwellers were exposed to BaP above WHO reference levels," said the EEA.

Last year, the WHO said outdoor air pollution was a leading cause of cancer.

Globally, it causes some 1.3 million deaths in cities every year. Nearly a quarter of a million of these deaths are caused by lung cancer.

According to the WHO, Iran, India, Indonesia and China are among the countries hardest hit by . In one alert in Beijing last year, PM2.5 reached as high as 40 times WHO recommended limits.

Explore further: A third of urban Europeans exposed to polluted air: EU

Related Stories

Air quality worsening in world's cities

May 7, 2014

Most city dwellers around the world are exposed to air pollution levels that are considered unsafe, and the situation is getting worse, according to a World Health Organization report Wednesday.

An up-close look at what air pollution is doing to your body

October 17, 2014

We are all aware that air pollution can be bad for our health – the World Health Organisation estimated that ambient air pollution caused 3.7 million premature deaths worldwide in 2012 – yet what exactly happens to your ...

WHO sets guidelines to reduce indoor pollution deaths

November 12, 2014

The World Health Organization on Wednesday announced its first-ever guidelines for indoor air pollution related to cooking, heating and lighting, a problem estimated to kill more than four million people per year.

Recommended for you

Ocean circulation implicated in past abrupt climate changes

June 30, 2016

There was a period during the last ice age when temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere went on a rollercoaster ride, plummeting and then rising again every 1,500 years or so. Those abrupt climate changes wreaked havoc on ...

Huge helium discovery 'a life-saving find'

June 27, 2016

A new approach to gas exploration has discovered a huge helium gas field, which could address the increasingly critical shortage of this vital yet rare element.

8 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

gkam
1.5 / 5 (8) Nov 19, 2014
These numbers have been known for a generation. I knew them in the late 1970's, when the rest of you were thinking that stink and gray smoke were normal.

We have been trying and trying to tell folk this, but they just laughed, thinking they knew better than those who did that-there book-learnin'.

Well,now you have to make draconian changes, without the advantage of slowly integrating the systems like we did in California decades ago.

Sorry Eikka, you folk did that to yourselves.
gkam
1.5 / 5 (8) Nov 19, 2014
How many Deniers called me a "LIAR!", when I brought up Environmental Economics?

Denial is based on political prejudice and enabled by technical ignorance of the systems and operations.
gkam
1.5 / 5 (8) Nov 19, 2014
I see otto and ira just automatically vote me down in every post, whether they understand it or not.

Cool. It shows us more about them than my comments.
Uncle Ira
3.7 / 5 (6) Nov 19, 2014
I see otto and ira just automatically vote me down in every post, whether they understand it or not.

Cool. It shows us more about them than my comments.


I vote you down because you act like the Returnering-Skippy and post up four dozens of postum a hour. And because you act like the Bennie-Skippy and claim to be the I-have-done-everything-Skippy when it is obvious you tell the obvious lies. And because you act like the Obama-man-Sock-Skippy and make a lot claims and give silly reasons for putting up proof without putting up proof.
gkam
1.4 / 5 (9) Nov 19, 2014
This is cool: Every time I see a one rating, I know I have gotten to Uncle Ira, . . without having to read his silly stuff.
gkam
1.6 / 5 (7) Nov 20, 2014
Here is proof.

Where are the Deniers?
gkam
1.7 / 5 (6) Nov 20, 2014
When are these folk going to get the message? We showed them how to cleanup their dirty act decades ago. Were they stuck in Old World politics?

Every day we get Eikka showing us how it cannot work, . . . while it works here. His folk cannot make it work well, apparently.

Perhaps he should hire us to help.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.4 / 5 (5) Nov 20, 2014
I see otto and ira just automatically vote me down in every post, whether they understand it or not.

Cool. It shows us more about them than my comments.
I have no problem hounding lying, flooding posters who systematically abuse the good graces of physorg, and also taking the opportunity to remind readers what these abusers are and what they have done.

You should be hounded into the ground.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.