Meeting WHO recommendations would prevent 114,000 additional deaths in Europe

A health impact assessment led by the Barcelona Institute of Global Health (ISGlobal) concluded that European cities could avoid 114,000 premature deaths more every year if they met the new recommendations of air quality presented by World Health Organization (WHO) in September 2021, compared to previous guidelines.

These estimates are the update of a study originally published in January 2021 in The Lancet Planetary Health, which showed how European cities could prevent up to 51,000 premature deaths each year, meeting current WHO recommendations on air quality published in 2005.

After the publication of the new notices, the research team carried out a new evaluation of the mortality burden attributable to fine particles (PM2.5) is for nitrogen dioxide (NOTtwo) the same 1,000 European cities included in the original study.

Compliance with the new air quality guidelines would translate into an 113% increase in the number of preventable deaths ​​in European cities compared to previous reference levels

The results were published in The Lancet Planetary Health, while the specific data for each city were published on the website of the ISGlobal ranking of cities. The new numbers show that the encounter with the new air quality guidelines for PM2.5 would translate into a 113% increase in the number of preventable deaths in European cities compared to previous benchmarks.

Although in accordance with the previous recommendation on the PM2.5 in all cities studied could save up to 51,213 lives per year, the scope of the new recommendation has the potential to prevent 109,188 premature deaths annually.

IN As to NOTtwo, reaching the levels recommended by the new guidelines could even prevent 57,030 deaths preterm infants, 56,130 more than the 900 avoidable deaths estimated for the former recommended levels of NOtwo. Reach the lowest levels of PM2.5 and NOTtwo observed in any city could prevent 125,000 and 79,000 premature deaths annually, respectively.

“Although there is no safe exposure limit below which air pollution becomes safe, these new results show how the new WHO global air quality recommendations offer a much better framework for protecting human health and preventing large numbers of people. of deaths”, says the ISGlobal researcher Sasha Khomenko, first author of the study.

If the new data show that the number of preventable deaths is much higher if the new WHO reference levels are adopted as targets, this effect is much more noticeable in the case of NOtwo.

While there is no safe exposure limit below which air pollution becomes safe, these new results show how the new global recommendations offer a much better framework for protecting human health and preventing large numbers of deaths.

Sasha Khomenko (ISGlobal)

Thus, among the cities with the highest mortality attributable to this pollutant, Madrid it would go from preventing 206 deaths annually if the old WHO recommendations were met to preventing 1,966 if it reached the new target. Antwerp it would go from 22 preventable deaths to 254; Turin from 34 to 562; Paris from 185 to 2,135; Milan from 103 to 1,864 and Barcelona from 82 to 1,554.

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Almost 100% of the population above recommended levels

One piece of data that shows the way ahead for European cities to achieve clean air is the percentage of the population that lives in areas that do not comply with WHO guidelines.

If before this percentage was 84% ​​in the case of PM2.5 and 9% in the case of NOtwo, with the new WHO recommendations, these numbers rise to 99.8% and 99.7% of the population living in cities, respectively. It is noteworthy, however, that the study was based on 2015 air pollution data.

“Given that current levels of air pollution in European cities put more than 100,000 lives at risk every year, the EU must adapt its legislation to the WHO recommendations”, he says. Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, lead author of the study and director of the ISGlobal Urban Planning, Environment and Health Initiative.

As current levels of air pollution in European cities put more than 100,000 lives at risk every year, the EU must align its legislation with WHO recommendations

Mark Nieuwenhuijsen (ISGlobal)

“At the same time, local, regional and national governments must prioritize the reduction of air pollution. We urgently need to reduce the use of fossil fuels, eliminate private cars and add more green space in our cities. This will not only reduce air pollution, but will also contribute to climate action, which is one of our highest priorities for humanity”, he adds.

Current European guidelines set a maximum limit of 25 µg / m3 for average annual PM2.5 and 40 µg / m3 for the annual average of NOtwo.

Top 10 cities with the highest mortality burden

The ten cities with the highest mortality burden attributable to PM pollution2.5 they are:

1

Brescia (Italy)

two

Bergamo (Italy)

3

Karviná (Czech Republic)

Four.

Vicenza (Italy)

5

Metropolitan Union of Upper Silesia (Poland)

6

Ostrava (Czech Republic)

7

Jastrzebie-Zdrój (Poland)

8

Saronno (Italy)

9

Rybnik (Poland)

10

Havírov (Czech Republic)

In relation to the load of mortality associated with NOtwo, the top ten cities are:

1

Madrid (metropolitan area) (Spain)

two

Antwerp, Belgium)

3

Turin (Italy)

Four.

Paris (metropolitan area) (France)

5

Milan (metropolitan area) (Italy)

6

Barcelona (metropolitan area) (Spain)

7

Mollet del Valles (Spain)

8

Brussels Belgium)

9

Herne (Germany)

10

Argenteuil – Bezons (France)

Top 10 cities with the lowest mortality burden

The ten cities with the lowest mortality burden attributable to PM contamination2.5 they are:

1

Reykjavik (Iceland)

two

Tromso (Norway)

3

Umea (Sweden)

Four.

Oulu (Finland)

5

Jyvaskyla (Finland)

6

Uppsala (Sweden)

7

Trondheim (Norway)

8

Lahti (Finland)

9

Orebro (Sweden)

10

Tampere (Finland)

The ten cities with the lowest mortality burden attributable to NO contaminationtwo they are:

1

Tromso (Norway)

two

Umea (Sweden)

3

Oulu (Finland)

Four.

Kristiansand (Norway)

5

Pula (Croatia)

6

Linkoping (Sweden)

7

Galway (Ireland)

8

Jonkiping (Sweden)

9

Alytus (Lithuania)

10

Trondheim (Norway)

Preventable deaths in European cities

PM2.5

NOTtwo

WHO recommendations (year 2005)

51,213

900

WHO recommendations (2021 year)

109,188

57,030

Limit air pollution levels (annual average)

New WHO Recommendations (2021)

WHO recommendations (2005)

EU directives

PM2.5

5 µg / m3

10 µg / m3

25 µg / m3

NOTtwo

10 µg / m3

40 µg / m3

40 µg / m3

.

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