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EEA: Air and noise pollution a major source of mortality in Europe

8 September 2020

Air and noise pollution, the impacts of climate change such as heatwaves, and exposure to dangerous chemicals contribute to 13%—one in every eight—of deaths in Europe, according to a major assessment on health and environment released today by the European Environment Agency (EEA).

The EEA report ‘Healthy environment, healthy lives: how the environment influences health and well-being in Europe,’ which draws extensively on World Health Organization data on the causes of death and disease, highlights how the quality of Europe’s environment plays a key role in determining our health and well-being. It shows how social deprivation, unhealthy behaviors and shifting demographics in Europe influence environmental health, with the most vulnerable hardest hit.

The authors of the report call for integrated approaches to environment and health. Traditional approaches to the environment and health have predominantly focused on individual hazards in compartmentalized environmental media. Today, there is recognition that the dynamic between the environment, health and well-being is complex, with exposure to multiple stressors leading to combined effects, mediated by social status.

The key findings of the report are:

The report includes estimates of the health impacts of different environmental stressors. Among these, the highest number of premature deaths is associated with exposure to PM2.5 (417,000 premature deaths in EEA-39 countries in 2018), followed by NO2 (55,000), ozone (20,600), and noise (12,014 premature deaths in EEA-33 in 2017).

The top non-communicable diseases causing deaths attributable to the environment in the high income European countries include (1) cancer (254,000 deaths in 2012); (2) ischaemic heart disease (134,200); (3) chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (80,700); (4) stroke (46,400); (5) mental, behavioral and neurological conditions, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease (28,600); (6) diabetes (26,700); and (7) chronic kidney disease (7,000).

Source: EEA