EU states exceeded air pollution limits in 2020 despite COVID


The Eiffel Tower is surrounded by a haze of small particles that looms over the skyline in Paris, France on December 9, 2016. REUTERS / Gonzalo Fuentes

BRUSSELS, Sept.21 (Reuters) – Most countries in the European Union exceeded at least one air pollution limit last year, even as containment measures linked to COVID-19 have improved the quality of air pollution. air in many regions, according to provisional data from the European Environment Agency (EEA) released on Tuesday.

Excessive air pollution has led around 10 EU countries to court in recent years, and although air quality has improved this decade, it remains the biggest environmental health risk in Europe .

Most of the 27 EU member states exceeded at least one of the block limits for air pollutants in 2020, according to provisional EEA data from monitoring stations.

Last year, hot spots in eight EU countries exceeded annual nitrogen dioxide pollution limits, a marked improvement from the 18 countries exceeding limits in 2019, the EEA said.

The reduction is due in part to lockdowns introduced to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, which have sharply reduced road transport. The main source of nitrogen dioxide pollution is traffic, which can cause asthma and respiratory problems.

Meanwhile, areas in eight EU countries exceeded EU daily limits for particulate matter last year, up from 16 countries in 2019. Only two EU countries exceeded annual pollution limits by particles in 2020, said the EEA.

Prolonged exposure to a particular material can cause lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. The main sources include the combustion of solid fuels, and particulate levels are particularly high in areas of central and eastern Europe where coal is commonly used for home heating.

A total of 17 EU countries exceeded EU target values ​​last year for pollution with ozone, a pollutant formed by chemical reactions between heat, light and other greenhouse gases Greenhouse.

The COVID-19 closures have had less of an impact on ozone pollution, which is also determined by weather conditions, the EEA said.

In a bid to reduce premature deaths associated with polluted air, the European Commission has announced that it will review the EU’s pollution limits next year to better align them with upcoming World Organization recommendations. of health. Read more

Reporting by Kate Abnett Editing by Mark Potter

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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