Around 230 people died a premature death in 2016 because of pollution in Malta’s air, according to the EU’s environment agency.  

In its latest report on air pollution and its impacts on health, the European Environment Agency found that three leading air pollutants (particulate matter,  nitrogen dioxide and ozone), were cutting some 374,000 European lives short every year.  

The three compounds are Europe’s most serious pollutants, in terms of harm to human health.

Previous editions of the report found that the number of premature deaths in Malta stood at 220 in 2012 and 250 in 2014.

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The EEA’s latest report also includes a ‘years of life lost’ metric which estimates that Maltese people lost around 2,700 years of life collectively in 2016. This means that air pollution cost every single Maltese citizen two days of their lives.  

It is well documented, the study reads, that exposure to air pollution may lead to adverse health effects, mainly related to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. 

Some population groups are more affected by air pollution than others, because they are more exposed or vulnerable to environmental hazards. Lower socio-economic groups tend to be more exposed to air pollution, while older people, children and those with pre existing health conditions are more vulnerable, the report reads. It also has considerable economic impacts, increasing medical costs and reducing productivity through working days lost across the economy.

Malta is also among 12 countries the report indicates are still some way off pollution reduction targets set for 2020.

Across Europe, the report found that road transport remained one of the main sources of air pollution, along with emissions from agriculture, energy production, industry and households. 

Heart disease and stroke are the most common reasons for premature death attributed to air pollution, followed by lung disease and lung cancer.

The latest estimates of vegetation exposure to ozone, the report adds, indicate that around 15 per cent of the agricultural land area of the EU tested over the recommended limits. 

The long-term target for the protection of vegetation from ground-level ozone was exceeded in 73 per cent of the EU’s farm land.  

The study also estimated exposure to pollutants based on measurements taken at urban and suburban monitoring stations.  

In 2017, the proportion of the EU’s urban population exposed to particulate matter levels above recommended levels showed a slight increase compared with 2016. 

This stopped the continuous decreasing trend that had been observed since 2011. 

About 17 per cent the EU’s urban population is exposed to particulate matter above the EU daily limit value.