| 13 April 2024, Saturday |

EU states breached air pollution limits in 2020 despite COVID

According to provisional European Environment Agency (EEA) statistics released on Tuesday, most European Union nations exceeded at least one air pollution standard last year, despite COVID-19 lockdowns improving air quality in several places.

Excessive air pollution has put ten EU nations in court in recent years, and while air quality has improved this decade, it remains Europe’s most serious environmental health threat.

According to preliminary EEA data from monitoring stations, the majority of the EU’s 27 member states breached at least one of the bloc’s air pollution standards in 2020.

Last year, hotspots in eight EU nations exceeded yearly nitrogen dioxide pollution limits, a significant improvement from the 18 countries that did so in 2019, according to the EEA.

Lockdowns imposed to combat the COVID-19 epidemic, which drastically restricted road travel, contributed to the decline. Nitrogen dioxide pollution, which can induce asthma and respiratory difficulties, is primarily caused by traffic.

Meanwhile, last year, regions in eight EU nations exceeded daily EU particulate matter limits, compared to 16 countries in 2019. According to the EEA, just two EU nations exceeded annual particulate matter pollution standards in 2020.

Prolonged exposure to particular matter can cause lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. Key sources include burning solid fuels, and particulate matter levels are particularly high in regions of central and eastern Europe where coal is commonly used for home heating.

A total of 17 EU countries breached the EU’s target values last year for ozone pollution, a pollutant formed by chemical reactions between heat, light and other greenhouse gases.

COVID-19 lockdowns had less impact on ozone pollution, which is also determined by meteorological conditions, the EEA said.

In a bid to reduce premature deaths associated with dirty air, the European Commission has said it will revise EU pollution limits next year to better align them with upcoming World Health Organization recommendations.

  • Reuters