21st Sep 2019

Europe's city dwellers at high risk of pollution exposure

  • More than 90 percent of city dwelling Europeans live with poor air quality (Photo: EUobserver)

Over 90 percent of people living in Europe's cities are exposed to high levels of dangerous air pollutants, according to research by the EU's environment watchdog.

The findings are part of the annual 'Air Quality in Europe' report published by the European Environment Agency (EEA) Tuesday.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The agency marked out two specific pollutants as posing a "significant threat", fine particulate matter (PM) and ground-level ozone, both of which can lead to breathing problems and heart disease. Both pollutants are produced by chemical reactions involving carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and methane.

Some 96 percent of Europe's urban population were exposed to PM levels higher than limits recommended by the UN's World Health Organisation (WHO), with 98 percent at risk from ground level ozone, said the report.

Meanwhile, eight EU countries, including France and Germany, were in breach of rules on nitrogen pollutants, according to the agency.

However, the report found that overall air quality in Europe improved between 2002-2011, largely as a result of a 50 percent reduction in emissions of sulphur dioxide, as well as the gradual phasing out of leaded petrol.

"Air pollution is causing damage to human health and ecosystems," said Hans Bruyinckx, the agency's executive director, adding that lawmakers would "have to be ambitious and go beyond current legislation."

Meanwhile, launching the report in Brussels on Tuesday (15 October), the bloc's environment commissioner, Janez Potocnik, said that he would propose stricter targets on reducing emissions between 2020 and 2030 as part of the commission's review of its five-year-old air quality framework.

"I would like to see much more substantial mandatory emission reduction targets based on the technology that is proven today," said Potocnik. Current EU air emissions targets are based on the so-called Gothenburg protocol agreed at UN-level in 1999.

"A large majority of citizens understand the impact of air quality on health and are asking public authorities to take action at EU, national and local levels," commented Potocnik.

The EU executive estimates that poor air quality adds €4 billion per year to healthcare costs and is the main environmental cause of premature death across the continent.

EU tightens air quality rules

European governments have adopted a new directive that aims to limit the amount of particles in the air that can cause a range of health problems, from asthma to bronchitis.


Europe goes to New York This WEEK

Iran and climate change likely to dominate as French president Emmanuel Macron speaks for Europe at the UN general assembly in New York this week.


Dismiss Italy's Salvini at your peril

Matteo Salvini's recent gambit may have failed, but, in his own words: "From today you will find me even more pissed off and determined. I will go from town to town and we will take this country back."

News in Brief

  1. Ireland: right Brexit deal is 'not yet close'
  2. UK secrecy on Brexit holds back wider EU talks
  3. Feminist mass protest in Spain after 19 murders this summer
  4. Global climate strike starts ahead of UN summit
  5. UK Brexit minister to meet Barnier on Friday
  6. Russia-Ukraine gas deal talks show 'progress'
  7. Nobel economist: Ireland 'not good EU citizen' on taxes
  8. Germany takes carbon border tax on board


These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.


Trumpworld In Europe

Pastors and plutocrats are sponsoring an ultra-conservative agenda in Europe. Many of them have links to Donald Trump.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Europe goes to New York This WEEK
  2. Nine EU 'commissioners' asked to clarify declarations
  3. Dismiss Italy's Salvini at your peril
  4. Malta PM accused of 'blackmail' over slain reporter
  5. Diplomats back Romania's Kovesi for EU top prosecutor
  6. Brexit raises questions for EU defence integration
  7. Low-carbon cities can unlock €21tn by 2050, report finds
  8. France, Italy want 'automatic' distribution of migrants

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us