At least 238,000 people in the EU died prematurely in 2020 due to air pollution, despite improvements in air quality overall, according to the latest data from the European Environment Agency (EEA).
The agency’s analysts point out that air pollution is “the biggest health risk in Europe and that it significantly affects the health of Europeans, especially in cities”, even though the biggest polluters have reduced their emissions.
According to the EEA, at least 238,000 people died prematurely in 2020 due to exposure to PM2.5, with 96 percent of the urban population exposed to levels above WHO recommendations.
At the same time, nitrogen dioxide is the cause of 49,000 premature deaths, while exposure to ozone claimed 24,000 lives, says the EEA.
However, the number of premature deaths due to exposure to PM2.5 fell by 45 percent between 2005 and 2020.
“If the trend continues, the EU is expected to meet its target to reduce premature deaths by 55 percent by 2030,” the report said.
However, according to the EEA, further efforts are needed to meet the target of zero pollution by 2050, or reducing air pollution to levels that are not harmful to health.