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Environmental zones save 60,000 lives each year

Significantly fewer people in Europe die as a result of air pollution. Driving bans and cleaner cars contribute to this improvement.

Europe's air is getting cleaner. A report published on Monday by the European Environment Agency (EEA) shows that in 2018 up to 60,000 fewer people will die from the medical consequences of particulate matter pollution compared to 2009. Deaths due to nitrogen oxides have also fallen significantly, despite the increase in traffic.

The improvements in air quality are mainly due to transport and energy supply. An increase in electric cars and combustion engines with lower emissions, but also bans on old, dirty vehicles in cities were having an effect. Emissions from agriculture and heating were still too high. In Eastern Europe in particular, the air quality is still far too poor and exceeds the EU limits. This is the case in Bulgaria, Italy, Croatia, Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic. In the north of Europe, however, for example in Estonia, Finland, Iceland and Ireland, the air is so good that even the values recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) are met. These are even stricter than the EU's legal limits.

In urban areas where EU limits are respected, WHO values are still mostly exceeded, so that three out of four EU citizens in cities are exposed to particulate matter above harmful levels. In the case of ozone, almost everyone in cities is affected. According to the EEA report, this means that about 417,000 people still died from particulate matter (PM 2.5), 55,000 from nitrogen oxides and 20,600 from ozone. EU Commissioner Sinkevičius sees the WHO's figures as crucial: "If we are to succeed and fully protect people's health and the environment, we must continue to reduce air pollution and bring our air quality standards more into line with World Health Organisation recommendations".

This means that further bans on diesel driving and stricter rules in Europe's environmental zones are likely to continue to reduce levels in the coming years. But much more should then be done in precisely those areas which have shown little improvement in recent years, such as agriculture and other parts of industry.

In order to keep a close eye on all the existing environmental zones and their rules, our Green Zones app will help you as always.