Air quality in Europe has improved over the past decade, but most EU countries still do not meet international health standards.
Only four EU countries meet the EU criteria, according to a new annual report from the European Environment Agency (EEA). The EU has already taken legal action against 18 countries and took France to court last month.
Three quarters of the EU citizens in urban areas are still exposed to excessive levels of air pollution, 4 percent above the EU limits. About 379,000 premature deaths can be attributed to exposure to particulate matter, 54,000 to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and 19,000 to ozone.
According to the EEA, the air quality in the EU improved to such an extent between 2008 and 2018 that the number of premature deaths from particulate matter and NO2 decreased by 13 percent and 54 percent respectively. In those years, power plants and industry in particular have reduced their air pollution, but the agricultural sector, which emits ammonia from fertilizers and animal manure, has reduced pollution more slowly.
Governments are not doing enough to reduce toxic emissions at their source, the agency warns. The research shows that harmful emissions from agriculture and heating homes are not falling fast enough. Almost every EU member state exceeded the recommended limits in 2018. Only Estonia, Finland, Iceland and Ireland did not.
Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania and Italy have violated the EU limits for particulate matter. This is one of the most dangerous forms of air pollution, causing approximately 417,000 premature deaths in 41 European countries in 2018.
Belgium and the Netherlands submitted their plans in early April 2019, shortly before the deadline. Italy's plan is still “in draft” a year and a half after the deadline, while Greece, Luxembourg and Romania have not submitted any plan at all.