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Which cities in the European Union are worst for air pollution?

A map of EU cities based on air pollution levels based on data from the European Environment Agency.
A map of EU cities based on air pollution levels based on data from the European Environment Agency. Copyright Euronews
Copyright Euronews
By Euronews
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Nowy Sacz in Poland was found to have the highest concentration of fine particulate matter across EU cities over the past two years.


Cities in Poland and Italy are among Europe's worst for air quality, while those in Scandinavia and the Baltics are ranked the best, new data has revealed.

The European Environment Agency (EEA) released its latest ranking on city air quality on Thursday, reiterating that in some cities air pollution continues to pose a risk to health.

It estimated late last year that 417,000 citizens from 41 European countries prematurely lost their lives in 2018 because of air pollution — 60,000 fewer than a decade earlier, but still "far too high" for the agency.

A European Directive set the maximum tolerated concentration of fine particulate matter in the air as 25 µg/m3 for the year, while the World Health Organisation (WHO) has a much stricter guideline of 10 µg/m3.

Fine particulate matter is the air pollutant with the highest impact on health in terms of disease and premature death.

The European city with the best air quality over the previous two years was found to be Umea in Sweden, where the concentration of Fine particulate matter averages 3.7 µg/m3. It is followed by Tampere in Finland (3.8 µg/m3) and Funchal, Portugal (3.8 µg/m3).

Also featured in the top 10: Sweden's Uppsala and Stockholm; Estonia's Tallin and Narva and Tatu; Noway's Bergen and Trondheim and the Spanish city of Salamanca.

The city with the worst air quality was meanwhile found to be Nowy Sacz in Poland, with an average concentration of fine particulate matter reaching 27.3 µg/m3. Cremona in Italy (25.9 µg/m3) and Croatia's Slavonski Brod (25.7 µg/m3) complete the bottom trio.

Four other Polish cities (Zgierz, Piotrkow Trybunalsi, Zory and Krakow), as well as an additional three Italian cities (Vicenza, Brescia and Pavia) and the Bulgarian town of Veliko, occupy the rest of the worst 10 cities.

To compile the list the EEA used the daily concentration of fine particulate matter of 300 cities to calculate an annual mean concentration. Only cities which have communicated a minimum of 75% of temporal data coverage have been included.

Brussels has been taking member states to court over air pollution. In November, the European Court of Justice ruled that Italy has "systematically and persistently" breached the EU directive setting daily and annual limits on the amount of harmful fine particles.

The European Commission has also referred Poland and France to the ECJ.

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