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Most European city dwellers are exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution. Improving air quality to match World Health Organization (WHO)-recommended levels could prevent more than half of premature deaths caused by exposure to fine particulate matter.
Premature deaths in Europe in 2020
Source: EEA, 2022, 'Health impacts of air pollution in Europe, 2022', European Environment Agency.
EU urban population exposed to air pollutant concentrations above EU standards and WHO guidelines in 2020
Source: Health impacts of air quality
Air pollution: Where does it come from?
Different air pollutants are associated with different sources:
- Residential, commercial and institutional energy consumption was the principal source of particulate matter in 2020. The manufacturing and extraction industry was also a significant source, while agriculture was an equally important source of PM10. Between 2005 and 2020, emissions of particulate matter, PM10 and PM2.5, fell by 30% and 32%, respectively.
- Agriculture was the principal source of ammonia and methane in 2020, responsible for 94% and 56% of total emissions, respectively. Ammonia emissions fell by only 8% from 2005 to 2020. This was the lowest percentage reduction of all pollutants.
- In 2020, road transport was the principal source of nitrogen oxides, responsible for 37% of emissions. Emissions of nitrogen oxides fell by 48% between 2005 and 2020.
- The energy supply sector was the principal source of sulphur dioxide, responsible for 41% of emissions in 2020. Emissions of sulphur dioxide fell by 79% between 2005 and 2020.
- The manufacturing and extraction industries, and the energy supply sector, were the principal sources of heavy metals emissions in 2020. Between 2005 and 2020, the largest reductions in emissions were nickel (64%) and arsenic (62%).
Check air quality at any time: European Air Quality Index
How clean is the air you’re breathing right now?
The European Air Quality Index provides information on the current air quality situation based on measurements from more than 2000 air quality monitoring stations across Europe.
The Index allows citizens to use an interactive map to check the air quality at station level, based on five key pollutants that harm people's health and the environment: namely particulate matter (both PM2.5 and PM10), ground-level ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide.
The index is also available as an app for mobile phones.