Three Estonian towns are in the top 10 of Europe’s air cleanliness list

Three Estonian towns – Tallinn, Narva and Tartu – are in the top 10 of the European Environment Agency’s air cleanliness list.

In the European Environment Agency’s city and town air quality list, they’re ranked from the cleanest city/town to the most polluted, on the basis of average levels of fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, over the past two calendar years.

From 2019 to 2020, the top three cleanest towns in Europe in terms of air quality were Umeå in Sweden, Tampere in Finland and Funchal in Portugal. The three most polluted were Nowy Sacz in Poland, Cremona in Italy and Slavonski Brod in Croatia.

Of the 323 cities and towns included in the list, air quality in 127 of them is categorised as good, meaning it falls below the health-based guideline for long-term exposure to PM2.5 of 10 micrograms per cubic meter of air (10 μg/m3), established by the World Health Organisation.

Karlova district in Tartu. The image is illustrative.

Tallinn is listed as fourth (4.4 μg/m3), Narva seventh (4.8 μg/m3) and Tartu tenth (5.1 μg/m3).

In the top 10, there is only one city with over a million inhabitants – the Swedish capital, Stockholm. The next biggest town in the list is the Estonian capital, Tallinn, that has a little over 390,000 inhabitants.

Air in European cities, from the cleanest to the most polluted. The top ten. Image by the European Environment Agency.
Air in European cities, from the cleanest to the most polluted. The top ten. Image by the European Environment Agency.

Almost half a million premature deaths in a year

The European Union has set an annual limit value for PM2.5 of 25 μg/m3 under policies to deliver clean air in Europe.

Fine particulate matter is the air pollutant with the highest impact on health in terms of premature death and disease. Long-term exposure to PM2.5 causes cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

How clean is the air in my city? An air cleanliness map provided by the European Environment Agency.
How clean is the air in my city? An air cleanliness map provided by the European Environment Agency.

While there has been a marked improvement in Europe’s air quality over the past decade, the European Environment Agency’s latest annual air quality assessment found that exposure to fine particulate matter caused about 417,000 premature deaths in 41 European countries in 2018, the agency said in a statement.

The European Environment Agency is the agency of the European Union that provides information on the environment with a goal to help those involved in developing, implementing and evaluating environmental policy, and to inform the general public.

Cover: Narva’s riverside. The image is illustrative. Photo by Peeter Järvelaid.

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