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One in every eight deaths in Europe can be linked to pollution, according to a new report by the EU’s environment agency (EEA).

Air and noise pollution, as well as poor water quality and exposure to chemicals, contributed to 13% of all deaths across Europe. The report also noted who were hardest hit by pollution: poorer communities and vulnerable people. “Strong action is needed to protect the most vulnerable,” the agency said.

The Copenhagen-based agency released the report on was released on September 8, and was described as “a major assessment on health and [the] environment” in Europe. The report found that a total of 630,000 premature deaths in the European Union were attributable to environmental factors in 2012, the latest year for which data was available. Air pollution contributed to 400,000 annual deaths, with noise pollution being an attributable factor in 12,000. The remaining deaths were linked to extreme weather such as heatwaves.

“People are exposed to multiple risks at any time, including air, water and noise pollution, and chemicals, which combine and in some cases act in unison to impact on health,” the report said. The World Health Organization (WHO) says air pollution causes the death of millions of people around the world each year and accounts for a third of fatalities from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease.

In the UK, around 12% of deaths are said to be linked to environmental pollution.

“Socially deprived communities typically struggle under a triple burden of poverty, poor quality environments and ill health,” the EEA report said. “Eastern Europe and south-eastern Europe are both poorer and more polluted than the rest of Europe, with particulate matter emitted from the burning of solid fuel for residential heating and cooking,” it added.

The EEA said road traffic should be reduced, and fossil fuel subsidies should be removed in an effort to address the problem. The European Commission has echoed this view that a reduction in road traffic – specifically diesel-powered vehicles – would be beneficial. It has also suggested introducing measures to encourage greater use of electric cars. Last year, London introduced an Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) in an effort to limit emissions of pollutants from cars, vans and lorries.

Similar schemes are already in place around Europe. Italy has the most low emissions zones – some of them permanent, many of them seasonal. There are also about 80 in Germany, and 14 each in the Netherlands and the UK.

Source: BBC News