630,000 deaths in Europe linked to environmental factors – EU report



Harmful environmental factors, which disproportionately affect the poor, are responsible for 13% of all deaths in Europe, the European Environment Agency (EEA) has said. in a new report.

Around 630,000 deaths in the 27 countries of the European Union (EU), plus the UK, were attributable to environmental factors in 2012, the latest year for which data is available.

“These deaths are preventable and can be significantly reduced through efforts to improve environmental quality,” the report said.

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Air pollution is the biggest environmental health risk in Europe, contributing to more than 400,000 premature deaths every year. Prolonged exposure to pollutants can cause diabetes, lung disease and cancer.

Noise pollution comes second, contributing to 12,000 premature deaths, followed by the impacts of climate change, including heat waves and floods.

The report details how these damaging environmental factors disproportionately affect the continent’s poorest people, who tend to live in urban areas, with relatively limited access to green or blue spaces.

“Studies have shown that poor urban communities face higher levels of air pollution than wealthier urban areas, resulting in an increased health burden that can be exacerbated by pre-existing health conditions, with higher prevalence in poorer communities.”

Extinction Rebellion protesters have highlighted the issues of environmental degradation with constant protests over the past year. /AFP/Tolga Akmen

Extinction Rebellion protesters have highlighted the issues of environmental degradation with constant protests over the past year. /AFP/Tolga Akmen

The report cites early evidence that suggests air pollution may be linked to higher death rates in patients with COVID-19.

Pollution levels in Europe have fallen amid lockdowns imposed by nations during the pandemic, but the drop is expected to be temporary and most EU countries are on course to miss their air pollutant reduction targets over the course of the pandemic. of the next decade.

The report cites human health risks exasperated by environmental degradation, as highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID-19 has been another wake-up call, making us acutely aware of the relationship between our ecosystems and our health,” EU health chief Stella Kyriakides said in a statement.

While the EEA praises the EU’s European Green Deal, which aims to make the bloc carbon neutral by 2050, as representing a “radical shift in the European political agenda”, the report notes “conflicting political objectives” that need to be resolved.

“Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the use of renewable biomass or energy-efficient buildings with reduced ventilation can increase exposure to ambient and indoor air pollution. Pharmaceuticals are widely used to promote good health, while their release into the environment can impact ecosystems and, in the case of antibiotics, generate antimicrobial resistance.”

More broadly, the report questions Europe’s economic growth momentum which, while being the ‘main means of reducing poverty’, is also ‘currently driven by unsustainable consumption and production – the root cause of environmental degradation”.

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Video editing: Paula Harvey

Source(s): Reuters

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