This indicator provides information on the number of premature deaths in the EU-27 attributable to long-term exposure to PM2.5 since the year 2005. It also shows progress towards meeting the zero pollution action plan target and the year in which that target could be reached if the current trend continues.
Furthermore, it provides European NUTS3 regional-level information on the number of premature deaths adjusted for the number of inhabitants attributable to long-term exposure to PM2.5 for the most recent year with available data.
The EEA has been estimating the mortality attributable to air pollution in the last years. Until now, it used the recommendations provided by the WHO Europe in its 2013 report. This methodology has been explained in several documents, among them:
· the EEA briefing ‘Assessing the risks to health from air pollution’
· ETC/ATNI (2019, 2021) .
After the publication of the New WHO global air quality guidelines in 2021, and to reflect the updated recommendations, there has been some changes in the data used in that methodology:
· The relative risk has been updated from the previous 0.062 to 0.08; this implies that the risk of dying prematurely increases by 8 % per each increase in 10 µg/m3 in the PM2.5 concentrations (previously the increment in the risk was 6.2 %)
· The concentration from which the effect of exposure to PM2.5 is considered has changed from 0 µg/m3 to 5 µg/m3; in this way we estimate the mortality attributable to not reaching the air quality guideline level recommended by the WHO, and we consider in this way the concentrations for which the form of the concentration-response function is linear and for which this function is more certain. Nevertheless, please be aware that there is no evidence of a threshold below which air pollution does not impact on health. (Please see additional information at the EEA’s briefing Health impacts of air pollution in Europe, 2022).
The aggregations are either at European level or at NUTS3 level.
The European Commission published in 2013 the Clean Air Programme for Europe, which set the air policy objective of reducing by 2030 premature mortality due to particulate matter and ozone by 52% relative to 2005. This strategy built on the Seventh Environment Action Programme (7th EAP), which reinforced the objective set by the 6th EAP to achieve levels of air quality that do not give rise to significant negative impacts on and risks to human health and the environment.
The zero pollution action plan, adopted in the context of the European Green Deal, has, among other things, set the goal to reduce by 2030 the number of premature deaths in the EU caused by PM2.5 by at least 55%, relative to 2005 levels.
This indicator is a headline indicator for monitoring progress towards the 8th Environment Action Programme (European Union Decision on the 8th EAP, European Commission Communication on the 8th EAP monitoring framework). It mainly contributes to monitoring aspects of the 8th EAP priority objective Article 2.2.d that shall be met by 2030: ‘pursuing zero pollution, including in relation to harmful chemicals, in order to achieve a toxic-free environment, including for air, water and soil, as well as in relation to light and noise pollution, and protecting the health and wellbeing of people, animals and ecosystems from environment-related risks and negative impacts’.
The main uncertainties are those derived from the health risk calculations. They are described at the EEA briefing Assessing the risks to health from air pollution