Air pollution main environmental health hazard in Europe

European states need to step up efforts to improve air quality despite recent progress, amid the high cost to humans and the v, the European Union's environment watchdog said Monday.

Air pollution was a leading cause of premature deaths in 41 European countries surveyed, including the 28 EU member states, the Copenhagen-based European Environment Agency (EEA) said.

An estimated 422,000 premature deaths in 2015 were linked to particle pollution in the 41 countries, the report said.

Particle pollution, as well as ground-level ozone and nitrogen dioxide, cause or worsen breathing problems, cardiovascular disease and cancer, and lead to shortened lives, it said.

Particle pollution is a mixture of tiny particles and liquid droplets comprising several components including acids, metals, soil or dust particles.

Road transport, agriculture, energy production, industry and households were the main sources of air pollution.

"In terms of air pollution, road transport emissions are often more harmful than those from other sources, as these happen at ground level and tend to occur in cities, close to people," Hans Bruyninckx, the head of the EEA, said in a statement.

Better air quality policies and tougher standards for vehicle emissions and industry and energy production have helped lower premature death rates since 1990, the agency said.

Air pollution can also harm ecosystems by damaging soil, forests, lakes and rivers as well as reducing crop yields.

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