Air pollution knows no borders

Greg Davies 2022

Greg Davies
Director of Market Development, Assurity Consulting
29th November 2023

“Air pollution is currently the most important environmental health risk factor in Europe. It remains an important cause of poor health and contributes in particular to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.”

Estimating harm to human health attributable to three pollutants and based on 2021 data, the work looks at EU-27 members and a wider set of 40 EEA countries. The latter found:

  • 293,000 deaths were attributable to exposure to PM5concentrations above WHO’s guideline level of 5 µg/m3 (data from 40 EEA countries);
  • 69,000 deaths were attributable to exposure to NO2concentrations above WHO’s guideline level of 10 µg/m3 (data from 41 EEA countries); and
  • 27,000 deaths were attributable to short-term exposure to O3concentrations above 70 µg/m3 (data from 41 EEA countries)

(Note – the data presented is “the mortality related to all natural causes (i.e. excluding accidental and other non-natural causes) attributable to key air pollutants.”).

The briefing also identified that between 2005 and 2021, the number of deaths in the EU attributable to PM2.5 fell by 41%. However, the greatest harm to human health (burden of disease) for air pollution associated specific diseases, is from ischemic heart disease (PM2.5) and diabetes mellitus (NO2).

A link to the briefing is:

Harm to human health from air pollution in Europe: burden of disease 2023 — European Environment Agency (

In the UK Defra’s air pollution resource includes information from 32 (16 regional and 16 urban) areas reporting real time monitoring data and a Daily Air Quality Index (DAQI), providing a scale for the level of pollution and health advice. The scale on the index runs from 1 – Low to 10 – Very High and is based on the measurement of five pollutants:

  • Nitrogen Dioxide
  • Sulphur Dioxide
  • Ozone
  • Particles < 2.5µm (PM2.5)
  • Particles < 10µm (PM10)

Today 169 of the 173-monitoring site reporting had a “low”.

More information on the Defra work and the DAQI can be found at:

About Air Pollution - Defra, UK

Very like Europe air pollution in the UK is seen as the largest environmental risk to public health. Part of the Department of Health and Social Care, the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, report:

“The annual mortality of human-made air pollution in the UK is roughly equivalent to between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths every year. It is estimated that between 2017 and 2025 the total cost to the NHS and social care system of air pollutants (fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide), for which there is more robust evidence for an association, will be £1.6 billion.”

Under the “All Our Health” framework, the site also provides references and information on air pollution, as well as advice for health professionals and the public. A link to this site is:

Air pollution: applying All Our Health - GOV.UK (

What these all highlight is that whether indoor or outdoor, air quality needs to be managed. Be it direct health or return to work assurance, having reliable and credible information on your environment will play a key part in our future strategy, internationally, nationally, and organisationally. What information do you currently have on yours?