ETC/ATNI Report 10/2021: Health risk assessments of air pollution. Estimations of the 2019 HRA, benefit analysis of reaching specific air quality standards and more.

This report assesses the health risk to air pollution exposure for the year 2019 and how close the EU is to reach the 2030 target as established in the Zero Pollution Action Plan. The report includes a benefit analysis of the gains in avoided mortality should different EU standards and WHO recommendations have been reached already in 2019.

12 Nov 2021

Prepared by:

Alberto González Ortiz, Artur Gsella (European Environment Agency)

Cristina Guerreiro, Joana Soares (NILU – Norwegian Institute for Air Research)

Jan Horálek (CHMI – Czech Hydrometeorological Institute)

The health risk related to exposure to air pollution (fine particulate matter - PM2.5, ozone - O3, and nitrogen dioxide - NO2) in 2019 was estimated in terms of number of premature deaths and years of life lost related to exposure to for 41 European countries, including the 27 EU Member States. In 2019, air pollution continued to drive a significant burden of premature death and disease in the 41 countries reporting to EEA: 373,000 premature deaths were attributed to chronic exposure to PM2.5; 47,700 premature deaths were attributed to chronic NO2 exposure; 19,070 premature deaths were attributed to acute O3 exposure. The analysis on the EU’s progress to reach the 2030 target established in the Zero Pollution Action Plan shows a steady decrease in the number of premature deaths along the years, and if it continues to fall at a comparable rate in the future, then the target would be achieved by 2032. Had the new WHO air quality guideline level for PM2.5 of 5 µg/m3 been attained already in 2019 everywhere in Europe, the number of estimated premature deaths would have been at least 58 % lower. On the other hand, the attainment of the EU limit value for PM2.5 of 25 µg/m3 would have left the estimated number of premature deaths unchanged in EU-27.