Environmental pollution causes 13% of deaths in Europe

According to an assessment published by the European Environment Agency (EEA), 13% of deaths in Europe are caused by environmental pollution and chemical exposure.

A significant proportion of the burden of disease in Europe continues to be attributed to environmental pollution resulting from human activity, according to the European Environment Agency (EEA) report. ‘Healthy environment, healthy lives: how the environment influences health and well-being in Europe, draws extensively on World Health Organization data on the causes of death and disease and highlights how the quality of Europe’s environment plays a key role in determining our health and wellbeing.

“There is a clear link between the state of the environment and the health of our population. Everyone must understand that by taking care of our planet we are not only saving ecosystems, but also lives, especially the ones who are the most vulnerable. The European Union is devoted to this approach and with the new Biodiversity Strategy, the Circular Economy Action Plan and other forthcoming initiatives we are on the path to build a more resilient and healthier Europe for European citizens and beyond,” said Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries.

Key figures from the report

The report states that air pollution remains Europe’s top environmental threat to health, with more than 400,000 premature deaths driven by air pollution every year. The World Health Organization has attributed these deaths to a range of diseases caused by outdoor air pollution; ischaemic heart disease (40%), stroke (40%), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (11%), lung cancer (6%) and acute lower respiratory infections in children (3%).

The EEA found that noise pollution contributes to 12,000 premature deaths. According to this report, noise pollution is Europe’s second largest environmental threat to health, causing fatigue, cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, tinnitus, and hearing loss.

The burden of pollution and climate change varies across Europe, with clear differences between countries in the east and west of Europe. The highest fraction of national deaths (27%) is attributable to the environment in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the lowest in Iceland and Norway (9%).

“COVID-19 has been yet another wake-up call, making us acutely aware of the relationship between our ecosystems and our health and the need to face the facts – the way we live, consume and produce is detrimental to the climate and impacts negatively on our health. From our Farm to Fork Strategy for sustainable and healthy food to Europe’s future Beating Cancer Plan, we have made a strong commitment to protect the health of our citizens and our planet” said Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety.

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