Nine out of ten people worldwide breathe polluted air daily, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). That means 91% of the world’s population are living in places where air quality exceeds guideline limits.
Air pollution is thought to directly cause the deaths of around 7 million people per year, mostly in Asia and Africa.25% of heart disease, 24% of strokes, and 43% of lung disease and lung cancer deaths could be “attributed to air pollution”, according to WHO.
Cities in India and China accounted for many of the worst culprits, but Europeans are also affected by the phenomenon. Exposure to particulate matter (PM) has decreased the life expectancy of every person on the continent by an average of almost 1 year, mostly due to increased risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and lung cancer, according to WHO.
The organisation also said that if air pollution in European cities was reduced below the air quality guideline levels, people would live longer — in some cases by almost 2 years.
To read more about this go to: https://www.euronews.com/2019/02/19/air-pollution-knocks-almost-one-year-off-the-average-european-s-life-who
The new rules are part of the EU’s Strategy on low-emission mobility and Communication on delivering on low-emission mobility laying out actions for a fundamental modernisation of European mobility and transport Accelerating the shift to clean and sustainable mobility is essential to improve the quality of life and health of citizens and contribute to the EU’s climate objectives under the Paris Agreement. The clean mobility transition offers major opportunities for the European economy and reinforces the EU’s global leadership in clean vehicles. Monitoring and reporting CO2 emissions and fuel consumption of new heavy-duty vehicles will also increase transparency enabling transport operators to make well-informed purchasing decisions and save fuel costs. It will also drive innovation amongst European manufacturers.
To read more about this on the European Commission website go to: European Commission – PRESS RELEASES – Press release – Commission welcomes ambitious agreement on first ever EU legislation to monitor and report CO2 emissions from heavy-duty vehicles
UNICEF urges immediate action to reduce air pollution amid emerging evidence on how toxic air can affect brain development in young children
Almost 17 million babies under the age of one live in areas where air pollution is at least six times higher than international limits, causing them to breathe toxic air and potentially putting their brain development at risk, according to a new UNICEF paper released today. More than three-quarters of these young children – 12 million – live in South Asia.
To read more about this on the UNICEF website go to: 17 million babies under the age of 1 breathe toxic air, majority live in South Asia – UNICEF – Unicef UK
At the Clean Air Forum in Paris the Commission and the EU Environment Agency launched a new Air Quality Index, which allows citizens to monitor air quality in real time. The Commission also published an Air Quality Atlas, a tool developed by the Commission’s Joint Research Centre that maps the origins of fine particulate matter, such as dust, smoke, soot, pollen and soil particles, in EU cities.
The Air Quality Index and the European Air Quality Atlas are two tools that will help to pave the way for targeted measures to improve air quality and raise citizens’ awareness of the air quality situation in Europe. Each year, over 400 000 citizens die prematurely in the EU as a result of poor air quality, more than ten times the number of deaths by road traffic accidents. Millions more suffer from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases caused by air pollution.
To read more about the Clean Air Forum and to access the Air Quality Index and Atlas go to: European Commission – PRESS RELEASES – Press release – Mapping the sources and level of air pollution in Europe: Commission publishes new Air Quality Index and Atlas
On 19–21 September 2017, Mannheim, Germany, celebrated the 200th anniversary of the country’s invention of the bicycle by hosting the International Cycling Conference (ICC). The event brought together approximately 300 researchers, practitioners and politicians from across the globe to discuss the role of active mobility in the modern world, creating an intersection of academic, political and practical thinking strategies.
Through interactive sessions, presentations, posters, lively discussions and guided study excursions on bicycles, the Conference highlighted the important links between transport planning, health care, environmental quality, economic and business development, and social issues. Under the overarching theme of “Bridging the gap”, the event explored the challenges and opportunities of translating knowledge and experience from research into practice and policy-making – and vice versa.
To read more on the WHO/Europe website go to: WHO/Europe | Germany – Cycling: a vital link between transport, health, environment and economy
Each year, at least 1.4 million Europeans die prematurely due to polluted environments; this corresponds to at least 15% of Europe’s total deaths. Around half of these deaths are due to outdoor and indoor air pollution. Altogether, European citizens lose annually 50 million years of healthy life from environmental risks.
Environmental risk factors are responsible for around 26% of ischemic heart disease, 25% of strokes and 17% of cancers in Europe. Air pollution is the leading environmental killer, responsible for 620,000 deaths every year from outdoor (transport, industry, energy production) and indoor (solid fuel combustion for heating and cooking, poor ventilation, second-hand tobacco smoke) exposure.
For more information about the risks to public health of air pollution on the euro.who.int website
More than 1 in 4 deaths of children under 5 years of age are attributable to unhealthy environments.
Every year, environmental risks – such as indoor and outdoor air pollution, second-hand smoke, unsafe water, lack of sanitation, and inadequate hygiene – take the lives of 1.7 million children under 5 years, according to the WHO.
The top 5 causes of death in children under 5 are:
- respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, attributable to indoor and outdoor air pollution, and second-hand smoke (570,000 children a year)
- diarrhoea, as a result of poor access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene (361,000 children a year)
- conditions, including prematurity, which could be prevented through access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene in health facilities as well as reducing air pollution (270,000 children a year in their first month of life)
- malaria that could be prevented through environmental actions, such as reducing breeding sites of mosquitoes or covering drinking-water storage (200,000 children a year)
- unintentional injuries attributable to the environment, such as poisoning, falls, and drowning (200,000 children a year)
For more information on the causes of death for children under 5 from the who.int website
Although air pollutants are invisible killers, people are increasingly aware and concerned about the quality of the air they breathe. From 31st December 2016 a new National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) Directive became law, which sets stricter limits on the five main pollutants in Europe – sulphur dioxide, ammonia, volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxide and fine particulate matter.
The aim is to reduce these five pollutants by 79%, 19%, 40%, 63% and 49% respectively by 2030.
When fully implemented, the Directive will reduce by almost 50% the negative health impacts of air pollution, such as respiratory diseases and premature death. It will also have substantial benefits for the quality of fresh water, soil, and ecosystems and help address the impacts of harmful particles causing climate change like black carbon.
More information about air pollution and the Emissions Directive on the europa.eu website
Air pollution is causing around 467,000 premature deaths in Europe every year, the European Environment Agency (EEA) has warned. People in urban areas are especially at risk, with around 85% exposed to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) at levels deemed harmful by the World Health Organization (WHO).
These particles are too small to see or smell, but can have a devastating impact, causing or aggravating heart disease, asthma and lung cancer.
Download the Air Quality in Europe 2016 report from the eea.europa.eu website
A new WHO report summarizing evidence on the health effects of green space in urban areas shows that they offer numerous public health benefits, including psychological relaxation and stress reduction, enhanced physical activity and a potential reduction in exposure to air pollution, noise and excessive heat.
The report concludes that there is a need for both small, local green spaces situated very close to where people live and spend their day, and large green spaces that provide formal recreational facilities (such as playing fields) and opportunities to interact with nature.
The report also presents a toolkit for a geographic information system (GIS)-based approach to measuring urban green space. This provides cities with a way to calculate how many people have access to green spaces and to identify new areas where they can be established.
Download the report on Urban Green Spaces and Public Health from the euro.who.int website