A new report has concluded that European Union air quality policies and new technologies have prevented 80,000 deaths due to air pollution.
According to the new study, The impact of European legislative and technology measures to reduce air pollutants on air quality, human health and climate, led by the University of Leeds, approximately 80,000 air quality-related deaths are prevented each year as a direct result of the introduction of European Union (EU) policies and new technologies designed to reduce air pollution.
Specifically, the study found that EU policies have led to a 35% reduction in fine particles in the atmosphere between 1970 to 2010, improving public health across the Union. Policies have included regulations improving fuel quality and adopting European emissions standards in transport, while technologies included the introduction of particle filters and catalytic converters.
The study comes at a crucial time in the life of the European Union, as Britain continues to determine whether to remain, or to exit the Union and go it alone.
“Our work shows that EU policies have improved air quality,” said study co-author Dr Dominick Spracklen, from the School of Earth & Environment at the University of Leeds “If the UK were to exit the EU, our air quality policy would no longer be subject to EU legislation, with potential implications for future air quality.”
“Regardless of the UK’s position in the EU, it is vital that we continue to reduce air pollution emissions to ensure future air quality and the health of the British public.”
Air pollution in the UK has received a lot of attention in the past fortnight, thanks in part to a new study published by the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health which found that air pollution in the UK is responsible for 40,000 deaths each year.
“We now know that air pollution has a substantial impact on many chronic long term conditions, increasing strokes and heart attacks in susceptible individuals,” said Professor Stephen Holgate, who chaired the working party for the report. “We know that air pollution adversely effects the development of the fetus, including lung development. And now there is compelling evidence that air pollution is associated with new onset asthma in children and adults. When our patients are exposed to such a clear and avoidable cause of death, illness and disability, it our duty to speak out.”
80,000 lives being saved each year is a big number. “To put this number in perspective, in 2011 just slightly in excess of 400,000 premature deaths were attributed to particulate air pollution over Europe,” said study co-author Professor Ken Carslaw, also from the University’s School of Earth and Environment. “So EU policy has dramatically improved the health of European citizens.”
And with the very real possibility that the UK might leave the European Union, the study’s authors are urging the UK to consider the role Britain will have on the EU’s air quality regardless of whether they remain in the Union or not.
“Air pollution is a trans-boundary problem that does not recognise national borders,” explained lead author Steven Turnock, a PhD student at the University’s School of Earth and Environment. “The improvements in human health shown in this research have been achieved by European countries acting together.”
“Our research highlights the need to maintain and strengthen existing air quality policy in the face of a possible exit from the EU and develop new technologies that will further drive down emissions.“
Image Credit: University of Leeds & David Merrigan, via Flickr
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