Majority of EU countries do not comply with the EU’s Air Quality Directive, and this causes around 400,000 early deaths in EU every year, as well as health-related expenses of hundreds of thousands of euros, the European Court of Auditors reported on Tuesday.
“Air pollution is the greatest single environmental health risk in the European Union,” said Janusz Wojciechowski, Court member in charge of the report.
The report said that excessive air pollutants such as dust particles, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone, were responsible for the majority of early deaths and that the people who live in urban areas were under higher risk than others.
World Health Organisation (WHO) defines dust particles, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and ozone as those pollutants with the most detrimental effects to human health.
The Air Quality Directive, adopted in 2008, is the basis of EU clean air policy and includes air quality objectives and limit values for air pollutants.
“In the last few decades, EU policies have contributed to reduced emissions, but air quality improvement did not match that tempo, and there are still strong effects to public health,” Wojciechowski said.
Effects on health and reduced life expectation in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Latvia, and Hungary are similar to the countries often linked to poor air quality, such as China and India.
According to data by the European Environment Agency, some one in four European citizens who live in urban areas was exposed in 2015 to air pollution levels which went over some of the EU’s air quality norms.