is the largest environmental health risk in Europe
Of the urban population exposed to dangerous levels of particulate matter (PM)
Premature deaths due to PM pollution exceeding WHO guideline level
Children under the age of 18 die every year from exposure to air pollution
Dangerous pollutants all around us
Particulate matter (PM) comprises microscopic particles of solid and liquid matter suspended in the air. Coarse particles are 10 micrometers (μm) in diameter (PM10). Fine particles are 2.5 μm or less (PM2.5). Human hair, for example, is 50-70 μm. PM can occur naturally but is also caused to a large degree by human activities, especially in cities e.g. construction, road dust, burning of fossil fuels, power plants. PM is considered the most harmful pollutant in the EU.
Black carbon is a variant of particulate matter that is formed by an incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and biomass. It is produced by road vehicles, ships, coal and wood burning stoves, industrial equipment (e.g. tree-cutting machines), and also as a result of forest fires and waste burning. Black carbon's carcinogenic particles are small enough to enter the bloodstream and reach vital organs, which makes this pollutant especially harmful.
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is a gas that occurs naturally (from microbial activity in soil, lightning, volcanos) and as a result of human activities. The main outdoor source is emissions from motor vehicles, as the heat from internal combustion engines causes nitrogen and oxygen in the air to form NO2. Smoking and wood/gas/oil burning are the main indoor sources. Exposure to NO2 adversely affects human health and the environment.