Cities in Europe with the highest death rate due to air pollution named

Cities in Europe with the highest death rate due to air pollution named
Cities in Europe with the highest death rate due to air pollution named
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Scientists evaluated data on premature deaths in 969 cities and 47 megacities of 31 European countries, taking into account the recommendations of the World Health Organization on the maximum permissible concentrations of fine particles and nitrogen dioxide for safe human life.

Despite the efforts of Western politicians and environmentalists, the problem of air pollution in their cities is still very acute and is considered the main environmental cause of disease and premature death. According to experts, long-term exposure to atmospheric particulate matter with a diameter of about 2.5 micrometers (PM 2.5) caused four to nine million deaths in 2015 worldwide.

If we talk about Europe, then in 2016 more than 400 thousand deaths (up to 7% of the annual indicator) were associated with PM 2, 5, and more than 70 thousand (1% of the annual mortality) - with the influence of nitrogen dioxide, one of the most common pollutants. This is the so-called fox tail - a yellow trail from emissions from various enterprises.

The EU directive sets average annual pollution limits of 25 micrograms per cubic meter for PM 2, 5 and 40 micrograms per cubic meter for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), while the recommendations of the World Health Organization are as follows: 10 micrograms per cubic meter for PM 2. 5 and 40 micrograms per cubic meter for NO2. However, experts still claim a link between air pollution and mortality even at concentrations below these thresholds.

The bar should probably be lowered even further for public health, according to a new study published in The Lancet Planetary Health. They estimated premature mortality rates in 969 cities and 47 metropolitan areas in 31 European countries, taking into account WHO recommendations. “We quantified the health impact by examining the effects of air pollution on natural mortality in adults 20 years and older,” wrote the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal. Spain), the Swiss Institute for the Tropics and Public Health (Swiss TPH) and Utrecht University (Netherlands).

The results showed that adherence to WHO guidelines could have prevented 51,213 PM-related deaths in 2015 and 900 NO2 deaths. “At the same time, reducing air pollution levels to the lowest levels would avoid 124,729 deaths per year from exposure to PM 2, 5 and 79,435 from exposure to NO2,” the researchers added. They also found that the data for the cities studied varied greatly: the highest death rates associated with NO2 were found in the large cities of Spain, Belgium, Italy and France.

As for PM 2, 5, they most often killed the inhabitants of the Po Valley in Italy (Piedmont, Lombardy and Venice), southern Poland and the eastern part of the Czech Republic. “The highest natural mortality rate attributable to fine particulate matter was 15% in the city of Brescia. As for nitrogen dioxide, up to 7% of natural deaths were found in Madrid. This is due to the fact that suspended solids are emitted not only from vehicles, but also from other sources of combustion: this includes industry, heating in homes, burning coal and firewood,”the scientists explained.

Cities with the highest rates of premature deaths associated with PM 2, 5 (left column) and nitrogen dioxide (right) exposure were calculated using an algorithm that took into account mortality rates, annual preventable premature deaths, and years of life lost for each pollutant air. The data from 2015 was taken as a basis, which were then compared with the indicators of 2018.

In addition, the authors of the study compiled the top 10 cities in Europe with the lowest rates of premature deaths due to exposure to PM 2, 5 (left column) and nitrogen dioxide (right). This rating includes mainly the cities of Northern Europe.

“This is the first study to assess air pollution-related deaths in European cities,” said Mark Nieuwenhuissen, senior study author and director of the Urban Planning, Environment and Health Initiative at ISGlobal. “Our results confirm that there is no safe exposure threshold below which air pollution is harmless to health. They also suggest that current European legislation does not provide sufficient protection for people. Thus, the permissible levels of NO2 and PM 2, 5 should be revised."

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