The EEA released their annual report on air quality in the 28 European Union member states, and warned that despite a general trend of improvement, the toxicity of the air is still killing 467,000 people annually.
In 21 of the 28 countries, concentrations of fine particle matter (PM2.5) continued to exceed the EU safe limit, and 50% also failed the stricter value set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The European countries with the worst levels of PM2.5 are Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic.
These fine particles are too small to see or smell, but are responsible for aggravating heart disease, asthma and lung cancer.
Although overall, the levels of these particles have been decreasing, since 2000, it is predicted that there will still be significant exceedances of the EU target for 2020. And the researchers warn that if we want to be near to reaching that goal, greater steps must be taken.
And it’s not only the PM2.5 that people should be worrying about, in urban areas the annual limit for nitrogen dioxide – that comes mainly from road traffic and fossil fuel combustion - was “widely exceeded” across the continent.
Of the 28 member states, 7% of people live in areas, which exceed the EU limit for nitrogen dioxide every single day. This impact leads to approximately 71,000 premature deaths every year.
In better news, the risk to the environment of acidification has decreased since the turn of the millennium.
An estimated 40% of the Natura 2000 – a protected area of land and marine territory protected by the European Commission – was at risk in 2005, but in the last decade that has dropped to 5%.