Farming under fire for poor air quality

New evidence that Europe’s air quality is sub par has been published by the EU’s own environment agency.

The study reveals that over 400,000 Europeans die every year as a result of air pollution.

While the findings show that air quality in Europe has improved, they also indicate that high concentrations of air pollution still pose significant health risks, with particulate matter (PM), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ground-level ozone (O3) causing most harm.

The report highlights that in 2014, air pollution caused 520,400 premature deaths (before 65) in the 41 countries on the European continent. 487,600 of these deaths were within the European Union itself. The country at the top of the grim ranking was Germany with 81,160 deaths, closely followed by 79,820 in Italy, and 52,240 in the United Kingdom.

Hans Bruyninckx, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency, said:

“As a society, we should not accept the cost of air pollution. With bold decisions and smart investments in cleaner transport, energy and agriculture, we can both tackle pollution and improve our quality of life. It is encouraging to see that many European governments and specifically cities are showing leadership in protecting people’s health by improving air quality. Clean air belongs to everyone, including people living in cities.”

The report singles out agriculture as one of the biggest sources of air pollution in Europe.

EEB Policy Manager for Agriculture and Bioenergy, Faustine Bas-Defossez, said:

Today’s report is yet more proof that our food and farming system is not working in harmony with the environment and health. We need bold Commission proposals on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy that will lead to a truly sustainable farming policy – one that gives us clean air to breathe, protects wildlife, farmers, farm animals and provides us all with healthy food today and tomorrow.”

Other sources of pollution are road transport, power plants, industry and households.

Today’s report comes hot on the heels of infringement procedures launched earlier this month by the European Commission against Luxembourg, Slovakia and Romania, for their alleged failure to implement EU law on air quality.

For EEB Policy Officer on Air Pollution and Noise, Margherita Tolotto, today’s report can give the Commission “new impetus to hold member states to their clean air commitments“.