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article imageReport says air pollution killing thousands in Europe each year

By Marcus Hondro     Mar 3, 2015 in Science
The European Environment Agency (EEA) released a major report Tuesday slamming the region's slow movement on air pollution and predicting thousands more premature deaths in Europe as a result. The report also said many positive steps have been taken.
Report on Europe's environment
The EEAs "The European environment - State and Outlook" for 2015 noted an improvement in how Europe is dealing with environmental problems but said not enough is being done to make necessary changes to create a thriving environment to prevent premature deaths. It said early deaths occur yearly because of air pollution and that the trend will continue for the foreseeable future.
The EEA based the report on data from numerous published sources and it looks closely at the state of the environment in Europe and includes an examination of it within a global context. It details the current state of environmental policy in Europe and the trends moving forward.
"Regarding environmental risks to health, there have been marked improvements in the quality of drinking water and bathing water in recent decades and some hazardous pollutants have been reduced," the report's executive summary reads.
"However, despite some improvements in air quality, air and noise pollution continue to cause serious health impacts, particularly in urban areas. In 2011, about 430 000 premature deaths in the EU were attributed to fine particulate matter.
"The outlook for environmental health risks in coming decades is uncertain but raises concern in some areas. Projected improvements in air quality, for example, are not expected to be sufficient to prevent continuing harm to health and the environment, while health impacts resulting from climate change are expected to worsen."
EEA report: Coordinated action
Urging governments of Europe to provide more "joined-up" action, the EEA noted a lack of coordination between member states on such fronts as biodiversity, noise pollution and water quality. There is strong action now on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the EEA said, but there is insufficient policy to deal with them in the future.
The executive director of the EEA, Hans Bruyninckx, told the Guardian that the environmental issues facing Europe, and the planet, are "interconnected" so looking at them in isolation doesn't work. "The way we study them and measure them and deal with them must be interconnected too," he said.
Mr. Bruyninckx said the efforts are worth it.
"Our analysis shows that European policies have successfully tackled many environmental challenges over the years. But it also shows that we continue to harm the natural systems that sustain our prosperity," he said. "While living within planetary limits is an immense challenge, there are huge benefits in responding to it."
The comprehensive report is produced every five years.
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