Air pollution is responsible for up to one in five premature deaths in 19 Western Balkan cities

  • Air pollution causes nearly 5,000 premature deaths in group of cities.
  • On average, people living in the Western Balkan cities studied lose up to 1.3 years of life to air pollution.
  • The main sources of particulate matter emissions are thermal power plants that use lignite coal and household heating.

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 4 June 2019 – Air pollution is directly responsible for up to one in five premature deaths in 19 Western Balkan cities, suggest preliminary results from a report led by UN Environment. 

Preliminary findings from the ‘Air Pollution and Human Health: The Case of the Western Balkans‘ report shows that the sum total number of premature deaths directly attributable to air pollution in the cities is nearly 5,000 a year. In seven of the cities studied, air pollution is responsible for at least 15% of premature mortality, and 19% in Tetovo, in North Macedonia.

On average, people living in the Western Balkans lose up to 1.3 years of life to air pollution. Levels of particulate matter – which comes from dust, soot and smoke and is strongly linked to cardiovascular diseases [1] can be over five times higher in the region than World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, the study reveals.

Average concentrations of PM2.5 particulate matter in all but one of the 19 cities studied exceeded the World Health Organisation guideline level of 10 μg/m3. A daily PM10 limit of 40μg/m3 set out under national legislation was found to be exceeded between 120 and 180 days a year – especially during winter. In comparison, European Union member states are not permitted to breach this level for more than 35 days a year.

“Last winter, I wanted to make snowmen and snowballs, but we couldn’t go outside. We must sometimes wear masks or scarves over our faces”, said 9-year old Sarah Kaidić, of the Isak Samokovlija school in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, during a World Environment Day press field trip. “I am very angry at people who run giant factories – they don’t care about anyone’s health,” said her classmate Arijan Haverić.

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