Cleaner air can be a

Given the well-established link between air quality and human health, it is timely to see a recent European Environment Agency (EEA) analysis showing that improving air quality has the potential to prevent more than half of the premature deaths caused by exposure to fine particulate matter.

According to the report, air pollution continued to cause a significant burden of premature death and disease across Europe.

Delivered in November 2021, the EEA briefing presented updated estimates on how three key pollutants – fine particulate matter (PM), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ground-level ozone (O3) – affected the health of Europeans in 2019.

The presentation also offered a preliminary assessment of the revised World Health Organization (WHO) guideline on air pollutants, which we cover in this edition of Automotive Filtration Insight. Among the issues addressed was a progress update on the implementation of measures designed to meet the EU Zero Pollution Action Plan target.

This seeks to reduce the number of premature deaths associated with exposure to fine particulate matter by more than 55% by 2030 in comparison with 2005’s figures.


three key pollutants

fine particulate matter (PM)

nitrogen dioxide (NO2)

ground-level ozone (O3)

Data shows extent of the challenge

According to the estimates presented in the EEA briefing, 307,000 people died prematurely as a result of exposure to high levels of particulate matter in the EU in 2019.

The suggestion is that 58% (178,000) of these deaths could have been avoided if all EU Member States had achieved the WHO’s new air quality guideline level of 5 µg/m3.

On the positive side, the EEA found that air quality in Europe was better in 2019 than in 2018 and resulted in fewer negative effects on health. The gradual reduction in pollution follows a long-term trend related to public policy initiatives.

EU Green Deal

Within the context of the so-called European Green Deal, the EU is currently on track to reach the target set out in the EU Zero Pollution Action Plan.

From 2005 to 2019, the number of pollution-related deaths decreased by about a third.

The EEA briefing was published to coincide with the EU Clean Air Forum, which brings together decision-makers, stakeholders and experts to reflect on the development and implementation of effective European, national and local air policies, projects and programs.