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Europe is sounding the alarm on a pressing environmental issue: nearly everyone across the continent is breathing air with Pollution levels exceeding safe standards. A recent investigation by the Guardian, backed by advanced research techniques like detailed satellite imagery and over 1,400 ground monitoring stations, paints a worrying picture. About 98% of Europeans live in areas where fine particulate Pollution, known as PM2.5, surpasses the guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Source: DW News/YouTube
What’s PM2.5? These are tiny airborne particles primarily resulting from burning fossil fuels. When inhaled, they can travel deep into our respiratory system and even enter the bloodstream, potentially affecting every organ in our bodies. The WHO recommends an annual average concentration of PM2.5 not to exceed 5 micrograms per cubic meter, but astonishingly, 98% of Europe’s population lives in areas exceeding this safe limit.
Some countries are grappling more than others. North Macedonia stands out as the most affected, with parts of its capital, Skopje, having Pollution levels almost six times the WHO’s recommended limit. Meanwhile, Eastern European countries, including Serbia, Romania, Albania, North Macedonia, Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary, face particularly high Pollution levels, double the WHO’s guidance.
But it’s not all doom and gloom! Sweden shines as an example, with no area in the country having PM2.5 levels over double the WHO’s guidelines. Some regions in northern Scotland also report commendably low levels of this particulate Pollution.
Thankfully, solutions are on the horizon. Last week, the European Parliament voted to adopt stricter WHO guidelines on PM2.5 by 2035. While this is a step in the right direction, experts emphasize the need for urgent action given the wide-ranging health risks linked to air pollution.
Cities like London and Milan are spearheading initiatives, from ultra-low emissions zones to promoting walking and cycling. As more evidence emerges on the harmful effects of polluted air, it’s clear that decisive and prompt action is the need of the hour for a cleaner, healthier Europe.
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