• Susie Ruston

Europe Remains Exposed to Dangerous Levels of Air Pollutants


Over the last two years the Covid-19 pandemic produced one noticeable dividend amongst all the human suffering - a significant drop in air pollution from urban mobility. Lockdowns resulted in less people on the road which translated to a rise in better air quality. A fact which can be seen in the European Environment Agency's latest briefing (April 2022) ‘Europe’s air quality status 2022'.


The briefing analyses concentrations of key air pollutants measured across 4,500 monitoring stations in 37 European countries. The analysis focuses on those pollutants most harmful to human health, including particulate matter (PM2.5, PM10), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) ozone (O3) and benzo[a]pyrene, and assesses concentrations against EU air quality standards and WHO air quality guidelines.


Key Findings Published by the EEA

The findings below are taken directly from the European Environment Agency

  • In 2020, concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) temporarily fell as a direct result of reductions in road transport during COVID-19 lockdowns. Reductions in NO2 annual mean concentrations of up to 25% were seen in major cities in France, Italy and Spain; during the first lockdown in April 2020, NO2 concentrations monitored at traffic stations fell by up to 70%

  • Despite these reductions and ongoing overall improvements in air quality, air pollution is still a major health concern for Europeans.

  • Central-eastern Europe and Italy reported the highest concentrations of particulate matter and benzo[a]pyrene (a carcinogen), due primarily to the burning of solid fuels for domestic heating and their use in industry.

  • Ozone levels were lower than in previous years, but still high in central Europe and some Mediterranean countries.

  • In the European Union, 96% of the urban population was exposed to levels of fine particulate matter above the latest health-based guideline set by the World Health Organization.

The data and findings provide a useful baseline for COMPAIR about average particulate concentrations in Europe, as the projects works to help people collaborate and use citizen science to achieve targets under the European Green Deal’s Zero Pollution Action Plan.


Check out the briefing EEA briefing Europe’s air quality status 2022 directly.

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