Farm fires from Pakistan to add increased air pollution load for Delhi

Satellite images by NASA have shown the increasing instances of farm fires vis vis stubble burning not just in Punjab and Haryana in the Indian side but also over large areas in Pakistan to the west of Punjab.

A NASA satellite image tweeted on Saturday morning by India Meteorology Department (IMD) scientist Ashim Mitra shows clusters of red dots (denoting farm fires) spread across Punjab and Haryana and also in Pakistan.

Despite several efforts by the Central and state governments to prevent farm fires, scores of farmers in Punjab and Haryana have started stubble burning ahead of the rabi season, air pollution from which is soon likely to travel towards Delhi-NCR.

The only saving grace for this week is that the number of fire counts is still very less and there are strong winds that dissipate this pollution faster. “The impact of these farm fires will not be felt much this week as the wind speed is strong and the number of fires is less,” IMD scientist in Delhi Urban Meteorological Services, Dr V.K. Soni said.

The IMD issues a forecast for three days and seven days outlook. Accordingly, there would be strong winds for next two days and there is no chance of rain.

But whatever little impact that these fires can have is already visible in the Air Quality Index (AQI) by the Central Pollution Control Board in the national capital. The AQI at 7 p.m. on Sunday at Anand Vihar was already at 289, Wazirpur was at 230, and Jahangirpuri at 197. At Shadipur, it was 189, at Okhla, it was 172, at Punjabi Bagh it was 166, and even at Lodi Road it was 140.

The Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) has been issuing a number of guidelines, the Delhi government has taken a number of initiatives to control dust and other pollutants and the Central government has said, it has provided harvester machines in large numbers for the farmers of Punjab and Haryana so that the stubble left from the kharif crop is not burnt.

Farm fires from Pakistan to add increased air pollution loa… | MENAFN.COM
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Clean air matters for a healthy brain: Research on air pollution and cognitive decline indicate cleaner air may reduce risk for Alzheimer’s and other dementias

Two USC researchers whose work linked air pollution to a greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease and faster cognitive decline are seeing signs that cleaner air can make a difference in brain health.

Cars and factories produce a fine particulate known as PM2.5 that USC-led studies have linked to memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease. Smaller than the width of a human hair, these tiny particles pose a big problem. Once inhaled, they pass directly from the nose up and into the brain, beyond the blood-brain barrier that normally protects the brain from dust or other invaders.

In a research letter published today in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, the USC researchers described how their labs each independently reported indications of recent decreases in neurotoxicity (damage to the brain or nervous system caused by exposure to toxic substances) of PM2.5 air pollution in humans and mice.

University Professor Caleb Finch and associate professor of gerontology and sociology Jennifer Ailshire, both with the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, focused on PM2.5 pollution. Long-term exposure to PM2.5 has been linked to premature death, particularly in people with chronic heart or lung diseases.

Ailshire’s research, published earlier this year in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, showed a strong association between cognitive deficits and air pollution among people with lower levels of education in 2004.

Based on data from the nationwide Health and Retirement Study, her work showed that, when exposed to PM2.5, adults 65 and older who had fewer than eight years of education faced a greater risk of cognitive impairment. But one decade later, Ailshire found no such association for study participants.

A likely factor was the reduction in PM2.5 over the prior decade, said Ailshire. Air quality data showed the average annual PM2.5 levels in the study participants’ neighborhoods were 25% below 2004 levels.

Notably in 2014, very few of the study participants lived in places with annual average PM2.5 that exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency air quality standards. This further suggested that the improvements with cognitive decline were linked to a drop in exposure to high pollution among older adults.

“Improving air quality around the country has been a tremendous public health and environment policy success story. But there are signs of a reversal in these trends,” Ailshire said. “Pollution levels are creeping up again and there are increasingly more large fires, which generate a significant amount of air pollution in certain parts of the country. This gives me cause for concern about future trends in improving air quality.”

Finch’s research on mice, published earlier this year in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, also found evidence of lower neurotoxicity of air pollution over time. Finch and his research team have studied pollution levels at the same Los Angeles site and their effect on mouse brains since 2009. After 2017, the mice exposed to a tiny, nanoscale version of PM2.5 appeared healthier. Markedly, they showed sharp declines in several factors of neurotoxicity, including oxidative damage to cells and tissues.

During the years that Finch’s and Ailshire’s studies were taking place, the composition of air pollution in the United States was also changing.

From 2000 to 2020, PM2.5 levels declined nationwide by 41%, according to the EPA. In contrast, urban PM2.5 in Los Angeles declined only slightly from 2009 to 2019. While nationwide ozone levels decreased, Los Angeles County ozone reversed the prior trends by increasing after 2015.

Finch and Ailshire emphasize that their findings cannot evaluate potential benefits of air pollution improvements to the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Although PM2.5 levels declined nationally from 2009 to 2016, the year-over-year increases that have been observed since 2017 show that improvements in air quality can be reversed, as they were in Los Angeles.

“Our findings underscore the importance of efforts to improve air quality as well as the continued importance of demographic and experimental evaluation of air pollution neurotoxicity,” Finch said.

Finch and Jiu-Chiuan “J.C.” Chen, an associate professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, previously published a study using both human and animal data that showed brain aging processes worsened by air pollution may increase dementia risk. Their research indicated that older women who lived in locations with high levels of PM2.5 suffered memory loss and Alzheimer’s-like brain shrinkage not seen in women living with cleaner air.

Clean air matters for a healthy brain: Research on air pollution and cognitive decline indicate cleaner air may reduce risk for Alzheimer’s and other dementias — ScienceDaily
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Excessively polluted air in Serbia at start of heating season

When data from the government’s measuring stations are compared to the World Health Organization’s new recommendations, the air in Serbia is excessively polluted almost everywhere it is monitored, even though the heating season is only beginning. Professor Vladimir Đurđević from the Faculty of Physics in Belgrade pointed to the results of new research that showed ten thousand people die per year from exposure to polluted air.

The institutions aren’t doing their job in the sphere of air pollution control in Serbia, according to speakers at a roundtable organized by the National Ecological Association (NEA). The event was held at the start of the heating season, during which extremes unheard of elsewhere in Europe occur in many places. It worsens the continuously difficult situation in industrial centers like Bor and Smederevo.

Commenting on the report for last year from the Serbian Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), the former chief of its relevant department Milenko Jovanović said the problems remained the same. The court reinstated him after he was unlawfully fired, but the agency degraded the team, leaving only three people to track the government’s entire network of air monitoring stations.

No one held accountable for violating law, jeopardizing public health

The law doesn’t cover the concentration of heavy metals in the air, Jovanović warned. He said sulfur dioxide has been “eliminated” in Europe from the group of serious pollutants but that in Bor, which is the most polluted city in Serbia, the levels surpassed the legal maximum 374 times last year. On 25 occasions, SO2 presence was dangerous for health for more than three consecutive hours, even though such breaches are officially not tolerated.  

The median level of arsenic was 46 times higher than allowed in 2020 and the legal limits were surpassed by several times also for cadmium and lead. At the same time, public inspection halved the number of its criminal charges and economic offenses, Jovanović revealed. The number of verdicts came in at just 16, compared to 73 from 2018.

Almost half of ten thousand premature deaths can be prevented by following regulations

Professor Vladimir Đurđević from the Faculty of Phisics in Belgrade pointed to a new finding that 9,773 people in Serbia die prematurely every year just from exposure to particulate matter PM2.5. He estimated the total number, including the effect of ozone and nitrogen oxides, is near ten thousand.

The data is from a domestic project for the development of an air protection program. In Đurđević’s words, the number of early deaths can be lowered to between 5,401 and 7,373, depending on which protection measures are applied.

The upper level could be reached if the law was just followed in the segment of emission control and desulfurization in Serbia’s entire fleet of eight large combustion plants, mostly coal-fired power plants, Đurđević said.

For the most optimistic scenario so far, where the death count would drop to 5,401, citizens would have a role including in the replacement of old cars and the introduction of environmentally friendly household heating devices. But the government is responsible for three quarters of preventable deaths, Đurđević added.

Urban population’s exposure in Serbia is two times higher than in EU

Dejan Lekić, another expert from NEA who worked in SEPA, highlighted the new recommendations from the World Health Organization, which drastically reduced the maximum desired levels of PM2.5 and PM10 particles on an annual level.

He said that according to that adjustment, almost every monitoring station registered more than 35 daily breaches, which is the highest number allowed in Serbia. When the same criteria are applied, the air was already excessively polluted on October 3 at almost every station in Serbia.

The exposure of the urban population to PM2.5 and PM10 in Serbia is two times higher than in the EU, Lekić said, citing data from the European Environment Agency. He has created an application called xEco vazduh that shows air quality from public monitoring stations in Serbia.

Electrostatic filters are not enough

Professor Dragana Đorđević from the Institute for Chemistry, Technology and Metallurgy (IHTM) at the University of Belgrade noted that coal-fired power plants in Serbia produce six million tons of ash per year. Electrostatic filtering systems can’t do everything, as they only hold larger particles but not the smaller ones, which are more dangerous, she asserted.

In her words, arsenic, radon and mercury are emitted into the air as gas, which makes them far more dangerous.

Excessively polluted air in Serbia at start of heating season
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Years of exposure to air pollution and road traffic noise may raise heart failure risk

Exposure to air pollution and road traffic noise over the course of many years may be associated with an increased risk of developing heart failure, and the correlation appears to be even greater in people who are former smokers or have high blood pressure, according to new research published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

“We found that long-term exposure to specific air pollutants and road traffic noise increased the risk of incident heart failure, especially for former smokers or people with hypertension, so preventive and educational measures are necessary,” said Youn-Hee Lim, Ph.D., lead author of the study and assistant professor in the section of environmental health within the department of public health at the University of Copenhagen in Copenhagen, Denmark. “To minimize the impact of these exposures, broad public tactics such as emissions control measures should be implemented. Strategies like smoking cessation and blood pressure control must be encouraged to help reduce individual risk.”

This analysis examined the impact of long-term environmental exposure, specifically from air pollution and road traffic noise, on the development of heart failure in a group of female nurses in Denmark over a 15-to-20-year period.

Researchers collected data from a prospective study of over 22,000 members of the all-female Danish Nurse Cohort study. The women were 44 years of age and older at study enrollment and living in Denmark. Participants were recruited in 1993 or 1999, and when they enrolled, each woman completed a comprehensive questionnaire on body mass index, lifestyle factors (smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity and dietary habits), pre-existing health conditions, reproductive health and working conditions. Information on heart failure diagnoses was gathered throughout the 20-year follow by linking study participants to the Danish National Patient Register, which includes records on all health care provided at hospitals in Denmark. Patient data was collected through December 31, 2014.  

The study group lived in rural, urban and suburban areas throughout Denmark. To best measure individual exposure to air pollution and road traffic noise, researchers maintained records of each individual’s residential addresses, including any moves to new residences from 1970 and 2014. To determine levels of air pollution, the yearly average concentrations of two components, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), were measured using a Danish air pollution modeling system. Road traffic noise levels within a three-kilometer radius from the participants’ residential addresses were estimated using a validated model system called Nord2000 and measured in decibels (dB), the standard unit for the intensity of sound.

The analysis of various pollutants and their effects on incident heart failure found:

– For every 5.1 µg/m3 increase in fine particulate matter exposure over three years, the risk of incident heart failure increased by 17%;

– For every 8.6 µg/m3 increase in NO2 exposure over three years, the risk of incident heart failure increased by 10%;

– For every 9.3 dB increase in road traffic noise exposure over three years, the risk of incident heart failure increased by 12%; and,

– Increased exposure to fine particulate matter and status as a former smoker were associated with a 72% increased risk of incident heart failure.

“We were surprised by how two environmental factors—air pollution and road traffic noise—interacted,” Lim said. “Air pollution was a stronger contributor to heart failure incidence compared to road traffic noise; however, the women exposed to both high levels of air pollution and road traffic noise showed the highest increase in heart failure risk. In addition, about 12% of the total study participants had hypertension at enrollment of the study. However, 30% of the nurses with heart failure incidence had a previous history of hypertension, and they were the most susceptible population to air pollution exposure.”

The study has several limitations. Researchers did not have information on additional variables that may have affected the results of the analysis, such as measures for each individual’s exposure to indoor air pollution or occupational noise; the amount of time spent outdoors; glass thickness of the windows of their home, which may influence noise pollution levels; if they had a hearing impairment; or individual socioeconomic status. Additionally, almost one-fourth of the original participants in the Danish Nurse Cohort were excluded from the final analysis because information was missing at the beginning of the study or at the study’s completion, so selection bias may be a contributing factor. The researchers also note that since they investigated Danish female nurses’ exposure levels and health outcomes, a generalization of the results to men or other populations warrants caution.

Previous research has shown an association between air pollution and cardiovascular disease, and the American Heart Association detailed a collection of research on the risks of pollution in a scientific statement in 2004, with additional updated findings added in 2010. In 2020 the American Heart Association American Heart Association published a scientific statement and policy guidance to address the implications of air pollution amid the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. The policy statement discusses policy guidance at the local, state and federal levels to improve the health of our communities. Short-term exposure to high levels of some air pollutants has also been linked to heart failure.

Years of exposure to air pollution and road traffic noise may raise heart failure risk
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When the Western US burns, the East also gets sick

While most of the largest U.S. wildfires occur in the Western U.S., almost three-quarters of the smoke-related deaths and visits to the emergency room for asthma occur east of the Rocky Mountains.

Smoke exposure, whether from wildfires or local burning, contributes to health problems across the U.S., but the impacts vary by region. A new study finds that smoke contributes to a larger percentage of health problems in the West, but affects greater numbers of people in the East—possibly when they aren’t even aware of the smoky air.

The new study was published in GeoHealth, AGU’s journal investigating the intersection of human and planetary health for a sustainable future.

In the West, where population density is generally lower and smoke concentrations are typically higher, smoke played a larger role in the number of asthma complaints and ER visits, contributing to more than 1% of annual visits in some years. In the East, with its high population density and lower smoke concentrations, there were a higher number of visits overall, even though a smaller percentage were related to smoke (0.3% to 0.6%).

The researchers estimate that long-term smoke exposure results in about 6,300 extra deaths each year, with the highest numbers occurring in the most populous states. Only 1,700 of those deaths occurred in the West.

Fires throw tremendous amounts of pollutants into the air, including toxic gases and soot. Smoke contains tiny particles smaller than 2.5 microns, called PM2.5, that enter the lungs and contribute to multiple health problems. Short-term exposure to PM2.5 from smoke is linked to respiratory health problems, like asthma attacks, and the long-term effects of PM2.5 from smoke are not fully understood. Research on PM2.5 from urban pollution suggests that exposure is linked to lung cancer, heart disease and an overall higher chance of death.

“Large wildfires are projected to increase in frequency and burned area in the Western U.S. Because of that, and projected decreases in urban-sourced PM2.5, fires are expected to become the dominant source of PM2.5 in the U.S. by the end of the century,” said atmospheric scientist and first author Katelyn O’Dell. O’Dell was formerly a graduate student at Colorado State University but is now a postdoctoral researcher at George Washington University. “We wanted to study the impacts of wildfire smoke specifically on health so we can better prepare for that future, when we expect to have more smoke in our lives.”

O’Dell collaborated with epidemiologists at Colorado State University to perform a health impact assessment. The researchers estimated the fraction of asthma ER visits and hospitalizations resulting from PM2.5 in smoke across the country from 2006 to 2018. They used existing data on asthma hospital visits and daily local estimates of PM2.5 based on readings from instruments at ground level and satellite data showing the location of smoke in the atmosphere.

The new study also included the first analysis of the health impacts of 18 hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) present in smoke, such as formaldehyde and benzene. The researchers determined that HAPs are likely a less important but more uncertain factor than PM2.5 in the health problems caused by smoke exposure.

As smoke pollution is likely to increase, the researchers argue that the U.S. needs better national smoke forecasting and alerts so that people in downwind regions know when to take precautions like wearing a mask, limiting time outside and using indoor air purifiers.

“We talk about smoke in the West so much, but we don’t often talk about smoke in the East,” O’Dell said. “I wonder if there’s a lack of awareness because you think, ‘Oh, that’s a Western problem.'” 

O’Dell emphasized that their study didn’t determine the source of the smoke affecting each region and that local burning and Canadian fires also contribute to smoky air in the Eastern U.S. She said that establishing the source of the smoke impacting health in each region is an important next step.

Tarik Benmarhnia, a climate change epidemiologist at the University of California, San Diego, who was not involved in the study, agreed that we need better smoke warning systems, especially for farm workers and others who labor outside. He pointed out that while smoke plumes impact entire regions, they don’t affect all residents equally. Age, race, ethnicity, exposure to other types of air pollution—such as from traffic—and pre-existing health conditions can all put a person at higher risk of developing health problems from smoke. He said that future research should investigate these disparities.

“The conclusion of the study is important,” said Benmarhnia, “We systematically underestimate the real public health impact of wildfires, which is related to smoke. And smoke can travel very, very far away.”

When the Western US burns, the East also gets sick
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Turkey’s 13 cities had ‘high air pollution’ in 2020

The aptly titled “Dark Report” from the non-profit Right to Clean Air Platform (THHP) based in Turkey paints a gloomy picture of air pollution in Turkey. The report, based on data from pollution measurement stations, says 13 provinces out of 81 in the country suffered from high levels of air pollution in 2020 – a year when contributions to pollution peaked due to disruptions to daily life caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Average annual particulate matter values (PM10) recorded at 97.7% of the 175 measurement stations, exceeded guideline values set by the World Health Organization (WHO), the report says.

Guideline values set a limit on tolerance of air pollutants before it poses a public health risk. Particulate matter is the most comprehensive indicator for air pollution and includes sulfate, nitrates, ammonia, sodium chloride, black carbon, mineral dust and water. Particles smaller than 10 microns in diameter can penetrate the lungs, endangering human health.

According to the report, air pollution in 45 provinces surpassed national limits in pollutants. Fifteen stations in the provinces of Muş, Iğdır, Malatya and Ağrı in the east, Istanbul, Edirne and Denizli in the west, the capital Ankara, the northern provinces Tokat, Düzce, Sinop and Karabük and the central province of Kayseri indicate they all suffer from high pollution, while only Bitlis and Hakkari, two small provinces in the east, had PM10 below WHO guideline values. The report singles out Muş as having the most polluted air, which “the population has to breathe for 306 days in a year.”

Istanbul, as the country’s most crowded city, prominently figured in the Dark Report, although it boasted a lower PM10 average compared to previous years. Still, the 2020 levels were two times higher than WHO guideline values. Four districts and neighborhoods of the city had levels three times higher level than the WHO limit. These were Mecidiyeköy on the European side of the city, a busy hub of transportation and businesses, the developing suburb Sultangazi, Esenyurt, which has seen a population boom in recent years, and Alibeyköy. In the capital Ankara, air pollution levels recorded by a station in Siteler, an industrial neighborhood dotted with furniture factories, were four times higher than the WHO limits.

In Izmir, the country’s third-largest province, Aliağa fared the worst, with levels more than twice the WHO values. The main pollutants in the industrial hub of Aliağa include a coal-powered plant, factories processing junk metal and petrochemical facilities.

THHP says the increasing number of heat waves Turkey has faced in the last decade has made forest fires more prevalent among the causes of pollution. It gives an example of a fire in Hatay that emitted massive levels of black carbon into the air. Another finding of the report is that coronavirus cases are higher in locations with higher air pollution.

Air pollution weakens the lungs, the main target of COVID-19, which in turn aggravates the cases. THHP Coordinator Buket Atlı says that Turkey must commit to reducing early deaths stemming from air pollution by 55% by 2030 and it needs to declare a strategy against nationwide air pollution, “a great public health problem.”

Turkey’s 13 cities had ‘high air pollution’ in 2020 | Daily Sabah
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Swiss air pollution exceeds new WHO guidelines

On 22 September 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) adjusted its healthy guidelines for key air pollutants. Switzerland now regularly exceeds maximum guidelines for several pollutants.

According to WHO, exposure to air pollution is estimated to cause 7 million premature deaths a year globally and result in the loss of millions more healthy years of life. The damage includes reduced lung growth and function, respiratory infections and aggravated asthma in children. In adults it mainly causes ischaemic heart disease and strokes. Evidence is also emerging of other effects such as diabetes and neurodegenerative conditions. The burden of disease attributable to air pollution is on par with unhealthy diet and tobacco smoking, said the health agency.

The WHO said that there was a marked increase in evidence that shows how air pollution affects different aspects of health. After a systematic review of the evidence the body decided to adjust almost all of its air quality guideline levels downwards.

The guidelines set out new healthy guideline levels for six pollutants, which include particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10), ozone (O₃), nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) sulfur dioxide (SO₂) and carbon monoxide (CO).

The annual guideline for PM2.5 was halved from 10µg/m3 to 5µg/m3 – PM2.5 particulate matter penetrates into lungs with the potential to pass through the lungs into other organs. The same annual rates for PM10 were cut from 20µg to 15µg and for NO2 they were cut from 40µg to 10µg.

Much of Switzerland regularly exceeds these new guidelines. In 2019, Bern came in with a PM2.5 reading of 10.9 μg/m³, well in excess of the new guideline of 5µg/m3.

Air pollution in Switzerland is seasonal. In 2019, air quality in Bern declined in November from around 8 μg/m³ of PM2.5 to 11.6μg/m³. This then climbed to 14.7 μg/m³ in January, and then to a yearly high of around 18 μg/m³ in February, the most polluted month.

In winter, burning wood, gas and heating oil add to Switzerland’s pollution. In addition, between 2-3% of the electricity generated in Switzerland is from fossil fuels.

During September 2021, Bern managed PM2.5 levels under 5µg for only 3 out of 30 days, according to IQAir. On the worst day air concentration of PM2.5 rose as high as 14.8µg/m3, close to three times the annual guideline limit. September air in Bern scored better on PM10 concentrations. The new annual WHO guideline is 15µg/m3. Bern had PM10 concentrations above this level for only 17 out of 30 days (57%).

Much of Switzerland’s pollution comes from vehicles and factories. Cars and trucks generate large amounts of NO2 and SO2 in addition to rubber particles from their tyres, which continue to accumulate. 200 tonnes of these particulates have been spread around Switzerland over the last 20 years alone.

Those most at risk from poor air quality are people living near factories and areas of dense traffic. Road commuters are also exposed to road pollution.

Swiss air pollution exceeds new WHO guidelines

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Europe’s industrial air pollution costing hundreds of billions: EEA

Air pollution from industries in Europe causes health and environmental damage estimated at up to €430 billion for a single year, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said Wednesday (29 September).

In 2017, industrial air pollution cost society between €277 billion and €433 billion, according to a new report from the agency.

“This is equivalent to about two to 3% of EU GDP, and is higher than many individual Member States’ total economic output that year,” the EEA said in a statement.

While European industry has made “significant progress” in reducing its environmental and climate impact, “societal costs or ‘externalities’ caused by air pollution from the sector remain high.”

The effects of the pollution include illness and premature death as well as the deterioration of ecosystems, habitats and crops. These have all been given an estimated monetary value in the report.

Of the 11,000-plus sites reporting pollutant emissions, 211 are responsible for half of the total costs, according to the report. These are mainly located in Germany, the UK, Poland, Spain and Italy.

Air pollution from thermal power plants – mostly run on coal – is the most dangerous to health and the environment, followed by emissions from heavy industry, fuel production and processing, according to the EU agency.

These are followed by lighter industries, waste management, livestock farming and wastewater treatment.

Among the 30 most polluting facilities on the continent, 24 are thermal power plants, 15 of which are in Western Europe including seven in Germany, according to the study.

The single most polluting plant is in Poland but the next four are in Germany.

Despite slight improvements, “air pollution is still a major health risk for Europeans,” the agency warned last week, as the levels of fine particulate matter, ozone and nitrogen oxides are often above air quality standards.

Europe’s industrial air pollution costing hundreds of billions: EEA – EURACTIV.com

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