Italy highest in EU for air pollution-linked deaths

Air pollution caused 84,400 premature deaths in Italy – the highest among the EU states – in 2012, according to the latest report from the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Italy highest in EU for air pollution-linked deaths
Turin is among the Italian cities most affected by air pollution. Photo: Andrea Puggioni

The 'Air Quality in Europe 2015' report was published to coincide with the opening of the climate change summit in Paris on Monday.

The EEA said that “air pollution is still the single largest environmental health risk in Europe”, causing an estimated 524,000 premature deaths in 2012 across the 40 countries monitored.

The estimated number of premature deaths due to harmful air across the 28 EU states stood at 491,000 in 2012.

“It shortens people’s lifespan and contributes to serious illnesses such as heart disease, respiratory problems and cancer,” the report said.

The most problematic pollutants affecting human health are particulate matter (PM), ground-level ozone (O3) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

In 2012, the majority (59,500) of the air pollution-related deaths in Italy were attributable to PM, while 21,600 were connected to NO2 and 3,300 to O3.

The largest number of deaths attributable to PM were in countries with the largest populations, such as the UK, France, Italy and Germany. But in relative terms, when considering ‘years of life lost’ per 100,000 inhabitants, the largest impact was seen in central and eastern European countries.

“Despite continuous improvements in recent decades, air pollution is still affecting the general health of Europeans, reducing their quality of life and life expectancy,” EEA Executive Director Hans Bruyninckx said in a statement.

“It also has considerable economic impacts, increasing medical costs and reducing productivity through working days lost across the economy.”

Rome, Milan, Turin, Brescia, Naples, Florence and Bologna are among the cities with the poorest air quality.

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Central and southern Italy brace for storms and heavy snow

Storms and snowfall are forecast across much of central and southern Italy over the next few days, according to weather reports.

Snow is forecast in the hills of much of central and southern Italy.
Snow is forecast in the hills of much of central and southern Italy. Photo: Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Italy’s Civil Protection Department on Monday issued ‘orange’ alerts for bad weather along Campania’s Tyrrhenian coastline and the western part of Calabria, while Sicily, Basilicata, Lazio, Molise, Umbria, Abruzzo, central-western Sardinia, and the remaining areas of Campania and Calabria are under a lower-level ‘yellow’ weather warning.

The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts is warning Italy’s central-southern regions to prepare for a blast of polar air from the Arctic Circle that will bring heavy snowfall, rain and storms, reports national weather forecaster Il Meteo.

The village of Grotte di Castro in the province of Viterbo, two hours’ drive north of Rome, mountainous parts of Sardinia, and much of the province of Campobasso in the central-eastern region of Molise were already blanketed in snow on Monday morning.

The department is responsible for predicting, preventing and managing emergency events across the country, and uses a green, yellow, orange and red graded colour coding system for weather safety reports.

An orange alert signifies a heavy rainfall, landslide and flood risk, while a yellow alert warns of localised heavy and potentially dangerous rainfall.

The current meteorological conditions mean that snow is expected to reach unusually low altitudes of around 450-500 metres, with flakes already falling thickly on parts of the southern-central Apennines mountain range at 500-700 metres altitude.

The hills of Marche, Abruzzo, Molise, Lazio, Sardinia, Campania, Calabria and Basilicata are likely to see heavy snow around the 500m mark, while areas at an altitude of 1000m or higher will see between 50-60 cm of fresh snow.

Affected parts of the country could see 50-60cm of snowfall.

Affected parts of the country could see 50-60cm of snowfall. Photo: Vincenzo PINTO /AFP

In areas where the snow is unlikely to reach, heavy rains and thunderstorms are anticipated, with rain forecast throughout Sardinia, Campania, Calabria and Lazio, reports Il Meteo.

Strong winds are forecast over the whole country, with the island regions of Sicily and Sardinia facing windspeeds of over 100km/hour and the risk of storm surges, according to the national newspaper La Repubblica.

READ ALSO: Climate crisis: The Italian cities worst affected by flooding and heatwaves

The north of the country, meanwhile, will see sun but low temperatures of below 0°C at night in many areas, including across much of the Po Valley.

While conditions are expected to stabilise on Tuesday, cold currents from Northern Europe are forecast to trigger another wave of bad weather on Wednesday and Thursday, with Sardinia and Italy’s western coastline again at risk of storms and heavy rainfall that will move up towards Lombardy, Emilia Romagna and Veneto in the north.