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Almost everyone in Europe is breathing toxic air

September 21, 2023

The British newspaper The Guardian investigation finds 98% of Europeans breathing highly damaging polluted air linked to 400,000 deaths a year

Only 2% op the European polulation live in aeras within the PM2.5 limit of 5 micrograms per m³

An investigation by the Guardian has revealed Europe is facing a “severe public health crisis”, with almost everyone across the continent living in areas with dangerous levels of air pollution

Analysis of data gathered using cutting-edge methodology – including detailed satellite images and measurements from more than 1,400 ground monitoring stations – reveals a dire picture of dirty air, with 98% of people living in areas with highly damaging fine particulate pollution that exceed World Health Organization guidelines. Almost two-thirds live in areas where air quality is more than double the WHO’s guidelines.

The worst hit country in Europe is North Macedonia. Almost two-thirds of people across the country live in areas with more than four times the WHO guidelines for PM2.5, while four areas were found to have air pollution almost six times the figure, including in its capital, Skopje.

Eastern Europe is significantly worse than western Europe, apart from Italy, where more than a third of those living in the Po valley and surrounding areas in the north of the country breath air that is four times the WHO figure for the most dangerous airborne particulates.

The Guardian worked with pollution experts to produce an interactive map revealing the worst-hit areas on the continent. The measurements refer to PM2.5 – tiny airborne particles mostly produced from the burning of fossil fuels, some of which can pass through the lungs and into the blood stream, affecting almost every organ in the body.

The current WHO guidelines state that annual average concentrations of PM2.5 should not exceed 5 micrograms a cubic metre (µg/m3). The new analysis found only 2% of the population of Europe live in areas within this limit. Experts say PM2.5 pollution causes about 400,000 deaths a year across the continent.

Also, According to the European Environmental Agency (EEA), PM 2.5 was responsible for an estimated 238,000 premature deaths in Europe in 2020 alone. Read more on the EEA report here.

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