Europe's Air Quality: Only Three Countries Pass the Test

Written by Camilla Jessen

Mar.19 - 2024 11:47 AM CET

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Only three European countries meet WHO air quality standards

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In new insights into air pollution across Europe, only three countries have been found to meet the air quality standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Clean Trio

Out of 134 countries and regions evaluated in the IQAir report, which gathers data from over 30,000 monitoring stations worldwide, only seven nations globally meet the WHO's air quality guidelines.

This list includes three European countries: Finland, Iceland, and Estonia.

These nations have successfully managed to limit the concentration of fine particles in the air—particles emitted by vehicles, industries, and other sources that pose significant health risks when inhaled.

A Global Overview

Despite significant advancements in air quality over the past century, pollution levels remain alarmingly high in certain areas.

Pakistan tops the list as the country with the most polluted air, with PM2.5 levels exceeding the WHO's recommended limit by more than 14 times. Following closely are India, Tajikistan, and Burkina Faso.

Interestingly, Canada, which once boasted the cleanest air among Western countries, saw a drastic decline in air quality due to unprecedented wildfires last year. The blazes resulted in Canada recording the worst PM2.5 pollution levels, with smoke affecting not just Canada but also parts of the US.

In China, efforts to improve air quality have been set back by economic activities resuming post-COVID-19 pandemic, leading to a 6.5% increase in PM2.5 levels.

The Health Cost of Pollution

The impact of air pollution on health is profound, with approximately half a million deaths in the EU in 2021 attributed to poor air quality.

According to the report, reducing pollution levels to those recommended by healthcare professionals could prevent about half of these deaths.

Following a December 2022 ruling by the Court of Justice of the EU, individuals who suffer health damages due to air pollution may not sue their countries for compensation. However, they can demand that states "take the necessary measures" to improve air quality.

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