Governments across Europe are failing to protect their citizens from toxic air pollution, with most Europeans still breathing filthy air in their cities, according to data.
Pollutants from farming, domestic heating and vehicles are beyond the levels needed to ensure breathable air within World Health Organization guidelines, despite EU legislation, government pledges and years of campaigning.
Only Ireland, Iceland, Finland and Estonia showed levels of fine particulate matter – one of the most dangerous forms of air pollution – that were below the WHO guidelines in 2018, according to data released on Monday by the European Environment Agency.
Exposure to such pollution caused about 417,000 premature deaths across Europe – including non-EU member states – in 2018.
Hans Bruyninckx, the executive director of the EEA, Europe’s environmental watchdog, said: “[Our] data prove that investing in better air quality is an investment for better health and productivity for all Europeans. Policies and actions that are consistent with Europe’s zero pollution ambition lead to longer and healthier lives and more resilient societies.”
There have been some improvements, but they fall short of the actions needed from governments. The EEA found that 60,000 fewer people died prematurely in 2018 than in 2009 from fine particulate matter pollution.