In spite improvements in air quality, most people in Europe’s population centres continue to be exposed to air pollution that is harmful to health.
Ninety-six per cent of the EU’s urban population lived with particulate matter levels exceeding World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline values in 2020, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said on Friday, April 1, 2022.
A total of 89 per cent were exposed to nitrogen dioxide levels above the WHO guideline values.
Germany was in the middle of the pack for particulate matter (PM2.5) but had the highest average concentration of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) of all EU states.
The coronavirus pandemic had a positive effect on air quality.
However, lockdown measures in the fight against the coronavirus led to a temporary reduction in road, air and international shipping traffic activity in 2020.
In major cities like France, Italy and Spain, nitrogen dioxide levels have dropped by up to a quarter, it said.
However, in spite a noticeable decrease in air pollution from road traffic, breaches of European air quality standards are still common across the EU.
The WHO made its recommended limits for pollutants in the air much stricter in September 2021.
What the organisation considers acceptable for health is now even more clearly below the EU guideline values.
The EEA sees a large discrepancy between the current EU requirements and the scientific evidence on when health effects occur.