Over 1,200 deaths in people under 18 years of age are estimated to be caused by air pollution every year in European Economic Area member and collaborating countries.
This is according to the European Environmental Agency report released on Monday.
The agency said despite the decline in air pollution emissions in the last two decades, air pollution remains the largest environmental health risk in Europe.
“Exposure to fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide levels above the World Health Organization recommendations cause an estimated 238,000 and 49,000 premature deaths, respectively, in 2020. These pollutants are linked to asthma, heart disease and stroke.
“Air pollution also causes morbidity. People live with diseases related to exposure to air pollution; this is a burden in terms of personal suffering as well as significant costs to the healthcare sector.
“Society’s most vulnerable are more susceptible to air pollution impacts. Lower socio-economic groups tend to be exposed to higher levels of air pollution, while older people, children and those with pre-existing health conditions are more susceptible.
“Over 1,200 deaths in people under 18 years of age are estimated to be caused by air pollution every year in EEA member and collaborating countries,” the report read in part.
The report also noted that air pollution can considerably impact Europe’s economy due to increased healthcare costs, reduced life expectancy, and lost working days across sectors. It also damages vegetation and ecosystems, water and soil quality, and local ecosystems.
The agency said residential, commercial and institutional energy consumption was the principal source of particulate matter in 2020.
“The manufacturing and extractive industry was also a significant source, while agriculture was an equally important source of PM10. Between 2005 and 2020, emissions of particulate matter, PM10 and PM2.5, fell by 30 per cent and 32 per cent, respectively.
“Agriculture was the principal source of ammonia and methane in 2020, responsible for 94 per cent and 56 per cent of total emissions, respectively. Ammonia emissions fell by only eight per cent from 2005 to 2020. This was the lowest percentage reduction of all pollutants,” it noted.
It added that in 2020, road transport was the principal source of nitrogen oxides, responsible for 37 per cent of emissions.
“The energy supply sector was the principal source of sulphur dioxide, responsible for 41 per cent of emissions in 2020. Emissions of sulphur dioxide fell by 79 per cent between 2005 and 2020.
“The manufacturing and extractive industries, and the energy supply sector, were the principal sources of heavy metals emissions in 2020. Between 2005 and 2020, the largest reductions in emissions were nickel (64 per cent) and arsenic (62 per cent),” it said.