Agency: Finland one of the few European countries protecting citizens from air pollution

The report highlights the dangers of fine particulate matter, and looks at whether there might be a link between air pollution and the coronavirus pandemic.

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File picture of clouds / Credit: iStock

A new scientific study from the European Environment Agency finds that Finland is one of the few European countries protecting citizens from air pollution.

In a report released this week the EEA published data which shows only Finland, Estonia, Iceland and Ireland have levels of fine particulate matters, a dangerous form of air pollution, below the levels set by the World Health Organisation. The fine particulate matter in six countries – Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech, Italy, Poland, and Romania – was the worst in the study.

Exposure to this type of air pollution caused an estimated 417,000 premature deaths in Europe during 2018, the EEA says. However there is some good news, because the report finds in general air quality across Europe is improving.

“The EEA’s data prove that investing in better air quality is an investment for better health and productivity for all Europeans. Policies and actions that are consistent with Europe’s zero pollution ambition, lead to longer and healthier lives and more resilient societies” says Hans Bruyninckx, the EEA’s Executive Director.

The EU’s Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius says more work needs to be done to cut air pollution and improve air quality standards in line with WHO recommendations, and pointed to the European Green Deal as a key factor in reducing pollution even further.

Possible links between air pollution and Covid-19

In the new report, entitled ‘Air Quality in Europe’ there is also a look at possible links between air pollution and coronavirus.

The EEA says the Covid-19 pandemic “continues to have severe implications for human health […] there is also early evidence to suggest that exposure to air pollution can influence human vulnerability and susceptibility to the disease.”

The report highlights that some early studies have looked at links between air pollution and high incidence, severity or mortality rates for coronavirus, but concludes that more research needs to be done to see if there is a clear correlation.