Particulate pollution caused nearly 6,500 premature deaths in Belgium in 2019. This is according to a report by the European Environment Agency. Across the European Union, there were 307,000 premature deaths, 11.3 percent fewer in one year. Worldwide, seven million people die every year from the effects of air pollution.
In addition to the 6,500 premature deaths in Belgium from particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM 2.5), the Environment Agency estimates that 750 people died prematurely from nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and 270 from ozone (O3) pollution.
Across the European Union, there are 307,000 premature deaths (PM 2.5), 40,400 (NO2) and 16,800 (O3) respectively.
Strict air quality standards
According to the study, more than half (58 percent) of these lives could theoretically have been saved if all 27 member states of the European Union had adhered to the latest new WHO air quality standards. In Belgium, that percentage is 54%, or about 3,500 deaths that could have been avoided. Heart disease and stroke are the most common causes of premature death and are associated with air pollution, followed by lung disease and lung cancer.
In late September, the World Health Organization tightened its air quality guidelines for the first time since 2005, when there was new evidence that air pollution was actually harmful at lower concentrations than previously thought.
Much progress has been made in recent decades. In the early 1990s, particulate matter was still causing nearly 1 million premature deaths in the 27 countries of the European Union. In 2005 that actually dropped to 450,000 and in 2019 to 307,000.
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