Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Cleaner Air in Europe Has Resulted in 11,000 Fewer Deaths, New Study Says

Health + Wellness
Cleaner Air in Europe Has Resulted in 11,000 Fewer Deaths, New Study Says
Clear skies in Madrid seen from the Hill of Tio Pio during the 46th day of the state of alarm on April 29, 2020 in Madrid, Spain. Eduardo Parra / Europa Press via Getty Images

A new study has shown that drops in nitrogen dioxide in the air and fine particulate matter as coal and oil consumption have plummeted over the last month have saved an estimated 11,000 lives across Europe. The range may be as low as 7,000, but as high as 21,000 deaths avoided.


The study found that steep declines in vehicular congestion and emissions from industrial activities has led to a bevy of positive health impacts, including 1.3 million fewer sick days for workers, 6,000 fewer children developing asthma, 1,900 emergency room visits avoided and 600 fewer preterm births in Europe, according to the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), as The Guardian reported.

The researchers found that stay-at-home orders across Europe to slow down the spread of the coronavirus have led to a 40 percent drop in nitrogen dioxide in the air and a 10 percent drop in particle pollution, as Business Green reported.

These types of pollution weaken the immune system, heart function and the respiratory system. They are responsible for an estimated 470,000 deaths in Europe each year, according to The Guardian.

Measures to combat the pandemic have resulted in "unprecedentedly dramatic reductions in coal and oil burning associated with air pollution in Europe," explained CREA lead analyst Lauri Myllyvirta, as Business Green reported. "This reduction in pollution has helped alleviate pressure on the health care system during this crisis. Furthermore, our analysis highlights the tremendous benefits for public health and quality of life that could be achieved by rapidly reducing fossil fuels in a sustained and sustainable way."

The statistical model the researchers created looked at data for air quality, weather conditions, emissions, population and disease prevalence. Germany ranked first with an estimated 2,083 deaths avoided followed by the UK (1,752), Italy (1,490), France (1,230) and Spain (1,083), according to The Guardian.

The research also looked at the ailments that were avoided. They found that 40 percent of the reductions in death were related to heart conditions, 17 percent to lung disease, and 13 percent from strokes and cancer, as The Guardian reported.

Myllyvirta noted that the research shows the impetus to transition to a clean energy infrastructure.

"Air pollution levels are plummeting as an unintended result of measures against the virus; this should not be seen as a 'silver lining', but it does show how normalised the massive death toll from air pollution has become, and points to what can be achieved if we shift to clean energy," he said, as Business Green reported. "When restrictions are fully lifted, European decision-makers can continue to implement policies to green electricity grids and transport systems in order to clear up our skies so we don't return to heavy pollution."

Myllyvirta noted that the results are just from Europe and they would likely be magnified if worldwide statistics were added. However, those gains are not to minimize the devastating toll the virus has had, claiming over 220,000 lives worldwide and causing millions of job losses.

The statistics mirror the observations of health experts who are seeing a dip in patients arriving at the hospital with complications from pulmonary disease and asthma.

"There is no doubt that a fall in air pollution is part of the reason," said Dr LJ Smith, a consultant in respiratory medicine at King's College hospital in London, to The Guardian. "It's allowed us to question what we have previously accepted as normal. If air pollution returns to its previous levels my waiting room will once again start filling up with children and adults struggling to breathe."

Radiation-contaminated water tanks and damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Feb. 25, 2016 in Okuma, Japan. Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

Japan will release radioactive wastewater from the failed Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean, the government announced on Tuesday.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Antarctica's Thwaites Glacier, aka the doomsday glacier, is seen here in 2014. NASA / Wikimedia Commons / CC0

Scientists have maneuvered an underwater robot beneath Antarctica's "doomsday glacier" for the first time, and the resulting data is not reassuring.

Read More Show Less
Trending
Journalists film a protest by the environmental organization BUND at the Datteln coal-fired power plant in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany on April 23, 2020. Bernd Thissen / picture alliance via Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

Lead partners of a global consortium of news outlets that aims to improve reporting on the climate emergency released a statement on Monday urging journalists everywhere to treat their coverage of the rapidly heating planet with the same same level of urgency and intensity as they have the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read More Show Less
Airborne microplastics are turning up in remote regions of the world, including the remote Altai mountains in Siberia. Kirill Kukhmar / TASS / Getty Images

Scientists consider plastic pollution one of the "most pressing environmental and social issues of the 21st century," but so far, microplastic research has mostly focused on the impact on rivers and oceans.

Read More Show Less
A laborer works at the site of a rare earth metals mine at Nancheng county, Jiangxi province, China on Oct. 7, 2010. Jie Zhao / Corbis via Getty Images

By Michel Penke

More than every second person in the world now has a cellphone, and manufacturers are rolling out bigger, better, slicker models all the time. Many, however, have a bloody history.

Read More Show Less