Flemish citizens lose fifteen months of healthy life due to exposure to fine particles in the air. That is the disturbing conclusion of Statistiek Vlaanderen, the Flemish governmental agency network that develops statistics. Due to air pollution, in 2021, 153 healthy life years were lost (per 10 000 inhabitants) in the Flemish region, 10 000 or 7% more than in 2020. So the situation is worsening.
However, in the longer term, the figures show a positive trend. The number of healthy life years lost due to exposure to particulate matter decreased between 2006 and 2015. In 2006, 287 potentially beneficial life years were lost.
Between 2015 and 2018, the impact of particulate matter remained virtually constant before declining further in 2019 and 2020. The downward trend can be explained by reduced air pollution and favorable meteorological conditions.
Particulate matter is released in traffic and by industry, but also households contribute to pollution by making open fires or heating their homes with wood-burning stoves.
Long-term exposure to particulate matter with a diameter smaller than 2,5 micrometers (PM 2.5), in particular, has health consequences. It causes premature deaths and an increased incidence of asthma, lung cancer, diabetes, and elevated blood pressure.
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