According to a recent report by the European Environment Agency (EEA), air pollution causes the death of more than 1200 children and teenagers in Europe annually. Additionally, it greatly raises the risk of developing ailments later in life.
Despite recent improvements, the EEA reported that numerous European nations’ critical air pollution levels stubbornly remain above WHO recommendations, particularly in central-eastern Europe and Italy. The survey, which was conducted in over 30 nations, covered all 27 European Union members.
The main industrialised nations of Russia, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom were not included in the report, raising the possibility that the continent’s overall death toll could be greater.
In its report, the agency said, “Although the number of premature deaths in this age group is low relative to the total for the European population estimated by EEA each year, deaths early in life represent a loss of future potential and come with a significant burden of chronic illness, both in childhood and later in life.”
The EEA encouraged authorities to concentrate on enhancing the air quality near schools, nurseries, sporting venues, as well as mass transit hubs.
The study notes, “After birth, ambient air pollution increases the risk of several health problems, including asthma, reduced lung function, respiratory infections and allergies.”
Why Is The Youth So Susceptible to Air Pollution?
Children and teenagers are particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution due to the fact that their bodies and immune systems are still developing.
The development and function of a child’s lungs may be impacted by short-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide and ozone as well as long-term exposure to fine particulate matter or PM 2.5. Asthma, which affects 9% of young people in Europe, might result from this, along with other respiratory and cardiovascular conditions.
Premature birth and low birth weight are additional effects of air pollution exposure during pregnancy. Although the number of early deaths among individuals under the age of 18 is very low when compared to the total number of deaths caused by air pollution, the impact of a death or chronic illness in a child’s early life is thought to be more important.
How Bad Is The Air Quality in Europe?
According to the report, dangerous air pollution levels were exposed to over 90% of the European Union’s metropolitan population in the year 2021.
The pollutant that causes the greatest harm to human health – exposure to PM 2.5 – was higher at 97%. The main risk factor for respiratory illness, stroke, and cancer is fine particulate matter.
According to data, Italy and central-eastern Europe have the worst PM 2.5 levels, primarily because people there burn solid fuels like coal in households and businesses. The Croatian town of Slavonski Brod, the Polish cities of Piotrków Trybunalski and Nowy Sacz, along with the Italian city of Cremona are among those with “very poor” air quality. The cleanest cities in Europe with the lowest average of PM 2.5 concentrations were identified as Faro in Portugal, Uppsala in Finland and Umeå and Uppsala in Sweden.
Monitoring revealed that ozone and nitrogen dioxide levels surpassed WHO recommendations in all nations. The highest amounts of ozone were found in central Europe and the Mediterranean region.
What Can Be Done For A Healthier Future?
The Green Deal’s Zero Pollution Action Plan for the European Union seeks to minimise air pollution and set emission caps. When compared to 2005 levels, it aims to reduce the number of deaths brought on by PM 2.5 by 55% by the year 2030. Until air pollution is brought down to safe levels, the protection of children can be increased by improving the quality of air around schools.
Every one of us needs to do our part to decrease air pollution if we want to see a difference. Consider encouraging your local government to implement traffic restrictions, improve bicycle infrastructure, and support environmentally friendly transit options. Also, we can make small adjustments to our daily lives, such as using public transportation instead of driving a private vehicle or utilising an electric vehicle. Together, we can create a cleaner, healthier, and better future for our children and ourselves.