One in eight deaths in Europe are linked to pollution, according to a new report published by the European Environment Agency (EEA). 

The report ‘Healthy environment, healthy lives: how the environment influences health and well-being in Europe said factors such as air and noise pollution, as well as poor water quality and exposure to chemicals, contributed to 13% of all deaths.

The report, which draws extensively on data from the World Health Organisation (WHO), highlights how the quality of Europe’s environment plays a key role in determining our health and wellbeing. 

It found that air pollution is one of Europe’s top environmental threats to health, with more than 400,000 premature deaths driven by air pollution every single year. Noise pollution comes second, contributing to 12 000 premature deaths, followed by the impacts of climate change, notably heatwaves.

The burden of pollution and climate change varies across Europe, with 27% of national deaths attributable to the environment in Bosnia and Herzegovina, compared to 9% in Iceland and Norway.

Socially deprived communities are more likely to be exposed to higher levels of pollution, and therefore struggle under a triple burden of poverty, poor quality environments and ill health. 

The report has also highlighted that although the evidence is not yet conclusive, early research has suggested that air pollution and poverty may be linked to higher death rates from COVID-19. 

It also stresses that an integrated approach to environment and health policies is essential in order to tackle environmental health risks and protect the most vulnerable.

Protecting nature is key in the delivery of public health benefits, reducing disease and fostering good health and well-being.