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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: http://www.humanite.fr/la-pollution...

by Alexandra Chaignon

Air pollution still kills too many

Translated Thursday 9 February 2017, by Meghan O’Shea

Fine particles, nitrogen and nitrogen dioxide emissions continue to affect the general health of Europeans, reducing both their quality of life and life expectancy, according to the latest air quality report issued by the European Environment Agency. France ranks 3rd among the countries most affected by this trend.

432,000 This is the number of premature deaths caused by air pollution in 40 European countries, according to the latest annual report by the European Environment Agency. Air pollution is the primary health risk of environmental origin, on the continent. For those affected, it has shortened the life expectancy and has contributed to the development of serious diseases such as heart disease, respiratory disorders and cancers. The report shows that most urban dwellers (85%) are exposed to levels of air pollution deemed harmful by the World Health Organization (WHO). 16% of these levels are above the EU targets for pollutants of less than 10 microns, particles that can lodge in airways. 8% are for those less than 2.5 microns, which are even more dangerous, as they can pass through the lungs and eventually end up in the circulatory system.

Moreover, exposures to nitrogen dioxide and ozone are estimated to be responsible for approximately 75,000 and 17,000 premature deaths, respectively. Based on the report’s national estimates for 40 European countries, in 2012, France ranks third in the list of countries most affected: 43,400 premature deaths attributable to exposure to fine particles, 1,500 to ozone and 7,700 to nitrogen dioxide, for a total of 52,600 deaths. France comes in behind Italy (84,400 deaths) and Germany (72,000 deaths). A total of 432,000 deaths have resulted, a figure similar to estimates from previous years.

Plant life and ecosystems are also affected

While overall levels of air pollution emissions have declined, some sectors have not met the targets that would allow cities to meet air quality standards. Still others pollute more and more. Additionally, emissions of fine particulates of less than 2.5 microns and benzopyrene from the combustion of coal and biomass remain "sustained", notes the report. “Reductions in emissions have improved air quality in Europe, but not enough to avoid unacceptable damage to human health and the environment,” says agency director Hans Bruyninckx. In addition to their effects on human health, air pollutants also have adverse effects on plant life and ecosystems.

In an attempt to reduce air pollution’s impact on health, the European Union has adopted new standards to reduce emissions of five atmospheric pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and fine particles. The new legislation, approved last Wednesday by a large majority by the European Parliament, after receiving the approval of the Member States, should make it possible to reduce, by half, the impact of pollutants on health by 2030, said the law’s European Parliament spokeswoman, the British elected Julie Girling. "The efforts made over the past decade to reduce CO2 emissions have given rise to the issue that air quality is being neglected," she stated.

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