London Pays The Highest Cost For Air Pollution In Europe: Report

An image depicting the film character “Mary Poppins” wearing a pollution mask is floated in the air … [+] near the Elizabeth Tower,...


London spends more than any other cities in Europe to tackle the negative effects of air pollution, the latest report for the European Alliance for Public Health (EPHA) shows. Yearly damage amounts to over £10.3 billion, which means £1,170 for the average Londoner.

Toxic air has a huge impact on healthcare systems, costing each European city resident almost £1,200 per year.

EPHA’s study is the biggest of its kind and quantifies the monetary value of premature death, medical treatment, lost working days and other health costs caused by particulate matter, ozone and nitrogen dioxide – the three air pollutants causing the most illness and death.

The researchers found that particulate induces the vast majority of costs (82.5% on average), followed by nitrogen dioxide (15%, caused mainly by traffic) and ozone (2.5%, caused by combustion). These proportions vary considerably between cities. Central and Eastern Europe have the highest rate of air pollution deaths, while Southern Europe has the highest rate of chronic illnesses.

With about 400,000 early people passing away annually (according to the European Environment Agency, EEA), air pollution is the number one cause of premature deaths from environmental factors in Europe. Two thirds of cities, where the majority of Europeans live, break the World Health Organisation’s standards and suffer more as a consequence.

“Our study reveals the magnitude of the damage toxic air is causing to people’s health and the huge health inequalities that exist between and within countries in Europe,” Sascha Marschang, the acting secretary general at EPHA, said.

Beyond London, the highest healthcare costs per year were recorded in Bucharest (Romania) with £5.8 billion, Berlin (Germany) with £4.5 billion, Warsaw (Poland) and Rome both with around £3.8 billion.

European capitals Paris, Madrid, Budapest, Sofia, Wien and Praha are also in the top 20, together with the urban areas of Manchester and the West Midlands.

In fact, from EPHA’s examination of 432 cities across Europe including the United Kingdom, Norway and Switzerland, it appears that the worst impact was felt in large and rich urban centers. Added together, air pollution costs almost £350 million per city on average.

Click on the map below to see costs in detail:

Create charts and maps with DatawrapperCost per Capita | Created with Datawrapper

However, cities in Central and Eastern Europe buck this trend and severe air pollution make them feature high in the ranking despite lower income levels.

Traffic is considered one of the major sources of urban pollution, accounting for £60-72 billion euros in 2016 alone for EU member states. In particular, even a small 1% increase in the number of cars in a city raises overall costs by almost 0.5%.

That’s why EPHA is now calling for government policies aimed at replacing fossil fuel transport with more sustainable alternatives, including cycling and electric mobility. To do so, EU recovery funding is key.

“To a large extent, the situation can be influenced by transport policies and cities can reduce costs by switching to zero-emission urban mobility,” Marschang said. “Governments and the European Union should bear these costs in mind for transport policy in order to support, not to hinder, a healthy recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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Newsrust: London Pays The Highest Cost For Air Pollution In Europe: Report
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