Three quarters of EU urban population exposed to toxic air as governments fail to cut emissions

Air pollution health impacts make us more vulnerable to Covid-19, report highlights

Most Europeans living in cities are still breathing air that is dangerous to their health, confirms the European Environment Agency (EEA) in a new report released today [1], but governments are not doing enough to cut toxic emissions at source, campaigners warn. Data show that harmful emissions, especially from farming and domestic heating, are not decreasing fast enough. Almost every EU member state in 2018 exceeded air pollution limits recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) [2]. Margherita Tolotto, Senior Policy Officer for Air and Noise at the European Environmental Bureau, said:

“How many wake up calls do government officials need to take on air pollution? Their delay is costing us our health and a safe environment. They know what needs to be done to improve air quality: cleaner energy and industrial production, greener and smarter transport, and sustainable farming.”

Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania and Italy breached EU limits for fine particulate matter (PM2.5), one of the most dangerous forms of air pollution which caused about 417,000 premature deaths in 41 European countries in 2018. EU laws require member states to respect binding emissions reduction targets set in the National Emission Ceiling Directive (NEC), and to detail their plans to cut air pollution. Yet, one year and half past the deadline, the Italian plan is still in draft form while Greece, Luxemburg and Romania have presented no plan at all. The EEA report recognises that long-term exposure to polluted air makes people more vulnerable to respiratory diseases such as Covid-19.

“It’s time our governments stopped playing with our health. Respecting EU air quality laws is the minimum they must do”, said Tolotto.  

Notes to Editors


[2] Except Estonia, Finland, Iceland and Ireland


The EEB is Europe’s largest network of environmental citizens’ groups with 150 members in more than 30 countries. Together with DUH, FNE and the Lake Constance Foundation, the EEB has launched the ‘Clean Air Farming‘ project to help reduce ammonia and methane emissions from agriculture.

The Project Clean Air Farming (LIFE17 GIE/DE/610 Air & Agriculture) is co-financed by the LIFE-Programme of the European Commission.

Three quarters of EU urban population exposed to toxic air as governments fail to cut emissions
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