|Air pollution can lead to respiratory|
and other diseases as well as death.
The European Environment Agency (EEA) emphasized microscopic specks of dust and soot in its annual report. Particulate matter (PM) measuring less than 10 microns, or 10 millionths of a meter, can lodge in airways. Still smaller particles, measuring under 2.5 microns across, can enter deep into the lungs and even cross over into the bloodstream.
"European citizens often breathe air that does not meet the European standards," the Copenhagen-based EEA has announced. "The current pollution levels clearly impact on large parts of the urban population."
PM emissions fell EU-wide between 2002 and 2011. However, 33 percent of urbanites live in areas where levels bust Europe's requirements for maximum exposure to PM10 - a benchmark measured on exposure averaged over 24 hours – and 22 countries exceeded the daily limit in 2011.
Pollution linked to death, illness and economic losses
The figure rises to 88 percent if measured under the far tougher, but nonbinding, guidelines for PM10 set by the UN's World Health Organization. Pollution results in deaths, ill health and economic losses linked to reduced crop yields, according to the EEA.
The EEA also reported that 98 percent of European urbanites lived in areas that were above UN guidelines for ozone, a molecule that, at ground level, is caused by a chemical reaction between sunlight and fossil-fuel emissions and is another irritant for the airways.
"Air pollution is causing damage to human health and ecosystems," EEA Executive Director Hans Bruyninckx said. "Large parts of the population do not live in a healthy environment, according to current standards."
A study published in The Lancet Respiratory Journal found that even low PM2.5 during pregnancy increases risk of low birth weight: less than 2.5 kilos (5.5 pounds) after 37 weeks of pregnancy and linked to respiratory problems in childhood and cognitive difficulties. The data come from 14 studies in 12 European countries involving 74,000 women.
High level emmissions of harmful particles owe partially to more diesel cars and a rise in wood burning as a cheap alternative to gas.
Source: Deutsche Welle