9% of Europeans living in towns and cities were exposed to nitrogen dioxide emissions in excess of the EU’s annual limit value in 2015, figures published by the European Environment Agency have suggested.
The figures were among those presented in the EEA’s ‘Air quality in Europe — 2017 report‘, published last week, which is based upon data from more than 2,500 monitoring stations across the continent.
According to EEA, the data shows that air quality in Europe is ‘slowly’ improving “thanks to past and current policies and technological developmentsâ€?, but, high concentrations of air pollution still have a significant impact on Europeans’ health, with particulate matter (PM), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ground-level ozone (O3) causing the biggest harm.
Headline findings in the report suggest that as many as 78,000 premature deaths could be attributed to NO2 exposure, whilst exposure to particulate matter contributed to the premature death of as many as 428,000 people.
On particulate matter emissions, the report noted that concentrations of PM continued to exceed the EU limit values in large parts of Europe in 2015.
Concentrations of PM10 above the EU daily limit value were registered at 19% of reporting stations in 20 of the 28 EU Member States, while for PM2.5, concentrations above the limit value were registered at 6% of the reporting stations in three Member States.
A total of 19 % of the EU-28 urban population was exposed to PM10 levels above the daily limit value and approximately 53 % was exposed to concentrations exceeding the stricter WHO air quality guideline value for PM10 in 2015, the report suggests.
For nitrogen dioxide, the report stated that the annual limit value continues to be widely exceeded across Europe, with around 10 % of all the reporting stations recording concentrations above that standard in 2015 in a total of 22 of the EU-28.
89% of all concentrations above this limit value were observed at traffic stations, the report states, estimating that 9% of the EU-28 urban population lived in areas with concentrations above the annual EU limit value of 40 µg/m3, and the WHO air quality guideline limit for NO2 in 2015.
Commenting on the figures, EEA Executive Director Hans Bruyninckx, said: “As a society, we should not accept the cost of air pollution. With bold decisions and smart investments in cleaner transport, energy and agriculture, we can both tackle pollution and improve our quality of life. It is encouraging to see that many European governments and specifically cities are showing leadership in protecting people’s health by improving air quality. Clean air belongs to everyone, including people living in cities.â€?
Karmenu Vella, EU Commissioner for environment, maritime affairs and fisheries, said: “The EEA report shows that poor air quality continues to have significant health impacts. The European Commission is committed to tackling this and help Member States make sure that the quality of their citizens’ air is of the highest standard.â€?
This year’s report also puts particular focus on agriculture, which EEA claims is an important emitter of air pollutants and greenhouse gases. A wide range of actions, including technically and economically viable measures, are available to reduce emissions from agriculture but have yet to be adopted at the scale and intensity needed, the report suggests.
Air quality in Europe — 2017 report