WHO air standards would prevent 50,000 deaths per year in Europe

WHO air standards would prevent 50,000 deaths per year in Europe

Violet Field inPlanetJan 21, 2021 2 min read1 views

On average, 84% of the population in cities is exposed to levels above those recommended by WHO, study finds

Pollution (illustration). - J. David Ake / AP / SIPA

Once again, a study confirms that rapid action against pollution would prevent premature deaths, and more precisely more than 50,000 per year in Europe. According to one published this Wednesday in the Lancet Planetary Health journal, to reduce mortality, air pollution should be reduced to levels recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The recommended threshold is, for fine particles PM2.5, 10 micrograms / m3 as an annual average and for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) 40 mg / m3 also as an annual average.

More than seven million deaths per year

The study, published in the Lancet, calculated the premature deaths linked to these two pollutants in 1,000 European cities. Following the WHO recommendations would prevent 51,213 premature deaths per year, according to the researchers. WHO further estimates that air pollution kills more than seven million people a year around the world and also causes illness and absenteeism at work.

In Europe, the number of deaths linked to air pollution varies between cities, with those located in the Po plain, Italy, Poland, and the Czech Republic being particularly affected. Conversely, the Icelandic capital Reykjavik, Tromsø in Norway, Umea in Sweden, and Oulu in Finland are less exposed. On average, 84% of the population in cities is exposed to levels higher than those recommended by WHO for PM2.5 and 9% for NO2.

For Sasha Khomenko, co-author of the study, it is therefore important to put in place measures adapted to local conditions, given the variations in pollution levels. The changes to be carried out concern road traffic, industry, airports, ports, but also wood and coal heating.