EEA: ‘Air pollution kills 1.200 kids a year in Europe’

Every year, air pollution causes more than 1 200 premature deaths among minors in Europe. That is what the European Environmental Agency (EEA) states in its latest report. The report relates to about 30 countries on the continent, including the 27 member states of the European Union.

The results show that the still high air pollution in large parts of Europe also puts children and young people at risk. “Children are particularly susceptible to air pollution,” the EU organization says. The impact begins before birth, with studies linking pollution to low birth weight and premature birth.

Lifelong consequences

Gerardo Sanchez Martinez, an expert in environment and health at the EEA: “You can’t think about children as little adults when it comes to air pollution. Children are more exposed to filthy air than adults because they have a faster breathing rate, are closer to the ground, and are outdoors more. We are failing our children on air pollution.”

So we need to do more to protect them, the EEA says. “Despite progress in recent years, the levels of several key air pollutants are still above the World Health Organization’s guidelines. Especially in Central and Eastern Europe and in Italy.” Every year, many thousands are afflicted with physical and mental health problems that can have lifelong consequences.

More green spaces

Exposure to high levels of pollutants in childhood has been shown to inhibit lung capacity, cause asthma, lead to higher levels of respiratory disease and ear infections, and increase the risk of allergies – and they may also affect brain development.

According to the EEA, air pollution needs to be tackled at the source. So we need to reduce air pollution in industry and transport, and at the same time, improve the air quality in school and kindergarten surroundings, by creating more green spaces.

Death toll

Large industrial countries like Russia, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom were not included in the EEA study, which means that the total death toll among young children in Europe is probably higher.

In November 2020, the EEA already announced that in the EU, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, and Turkey, a total of 238 000 people died prematurely as a result of air pollution.


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