Air pollution killing 1,200 children across Europe a year: Report
Air pollution is still responsible for over 1,200 premature deaths per year in people under the age of 18 across Europe, in addition to significantly increasing the risk of chronic disease later in life, the EU environmental agency informed Monday.
Following a meticulous study in over 30 countries, including 27 in the EU, the EEA said despite recent improvements, the level of key air pollutants in a number of European countries remains well above WHO guidelines, especially in Italy and central-eastern Europe.
Nevertheless, the overall death toll for the continent is likely to be higher as the report didn’t cover Russia, Ukraine, and the UK – some of the major industrial nations.
The report possibly represents the agency’s first study focusing specifically on children. Although compared to the total number of deaths estimated by the EEA for the European population each year, the number of premature deaths in this age group is relatively low, mortalities early in life represent a loss of future potential, the agency said.
It called on authorities to improve air quality around schools, nurseries, mass transport hubs, and sports facilities. After birth, ambient air pollution raises risks of serious health problems, such as reduced lung function, asthma, respiratory infections, and allergies, the report said.
In addition to it, poor air quality can also worsen certain chronic conditions like asthma, which affects roughly 9% of kids and adolescents across Europe.
Last year, the agency highlighted that the 27-member bloc was on track to meet its goal of reducing premature deaths by 50% by the end of this decade compared with 2005. In the early 1990s, fine particulates – considered one of the worst air pollutants – caused almost a million premature deaths per year in the EU. That figure dropped to 431,000 in 2005.
The situation in Europe appears to be much better than the rest of the planet, the WHO says. It blames air pollution for causing around seven million deaths across the globe each year, nearly as many as for bad diets and cigarette smoking.
In Thailand alone, where alarming levels of air pollution continue to choke parts of the country, health officials raised concerns last week that 2.4 million people had required medical treatment for conditions linked to air pollution since the beginning of 2023.