At least 238,000 people died in Europe from air pollution in 2020

This is slightly more than in 2019, when fine particles, which penetrate deep into the lungs, caused the premature deaths of 231,000 people, says the European Environment Agency.

Pollution by fine particles caused 238,000 premature deaths in the European Union in 2020, according to a report by the European Environment Agency (EEA) published this Thursday, a figure slightly higher than a year due to Covid-19.

“Exposure to concentrations of fine particles above the World Health Organization recommendations has caused 238,000 premature deaths” across the EU, the European Environment Agency said in a new report.

This increase contrasts with the constant decrease during the last twenty years (by 45% between 2005 and 2020), although the figure is still “significant”, underlines the study.

This increase is explained in particular by the fact that Covid-19 has affected more people with comorbidities related to air pollution (cancer, lung disease or type 2 diabetes).

Nitrogen dioxide responsible for 49,000 deaths

In addition, “comparing 2020 with 2019, the number of premature deaths attributable to air pollution increased for (fine particulate matter) PM2.5 but decreased for (nitrogen dioxide) NO2 and (ozone) O3,” the EEA details in its study. .

For ozone (O3) particles, particularly from road traffic and industrial activities, the trend in 2020 was downward with more than 24,000 deaths, a decrease of 3% in one year.

For nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a gas produced mainly by vehicles and thermal power plants, more than 49,000 premature deaths have been recorded, a 22% decrease that is partly explained by the reduction in road traffic during the coronavirus pandemic. coronavirus. .

The Copenhagen-based agency does not add up the balances because it would lead to double counting.

The EU on the right track

According to its annual report, it estimates that the EU is on track to meet its target of reducing premature deaths by more than 50% by 2030 compared to 2005. In the early 1990s, fine particulate matter caused nearly a million of premature deaths in the 27 EU countries. countries. In 2005, 431,000 people were still dying from it.

Air pollution remains the most important environmental threat to the health of Europeans.

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