The European Environment Agency (EEA) has announced that air pollution from particulate matter is responsible for the premature deaths of 399,000 inhabitants of the European Union. Of this number, 46,020 are Poles, according to Marion Solletty and Ginger Hervey of POLITICO. These figures relate to the year 2014, as that was how long it took to gather and verify the data. The highest premature death rate from particulate pollution in the EU is in Bulgaria, at 188 per 100,000 inhabitants. Poland is in second place, along with Hungary, with a rate of 120 deaths per 100,000. In 2014, the number of deaths caused by the smallest particles – the so-called P-2.5 – fell by 8 percent compared to the previous year.

EEA estimates of premature deaths are based on data provided by the authorities of individual countries, which are then verified and analyzed by the agency. Bulgaria had the highest premature death rate from particulate pollution, followed by Hungary and Poland, where over one-third of the population heats their homes with coal-fired stoves. Sweden and Ireland had the lowest results. The main source of particulate pollution is domestic heating, followed by road and industrial transport. The picture is equally bleak for other types of air pollution. Premature deaths associated with nitrogen dioxide (NO2), closely linked to emissions from diesel engines, rose to 75,000 in 2014 from 68,000 in 2013. Exceedances of EU limits were found in 22 of the 28 EU countries in 2015, and the European Commission initiated legal proceedings against them (including Poland), i.e., infringement proceedings. In the same year, over 80 percent of the urban population in Europe was exposed to particulate concentrations exceeding World Health Organization guidelines, which are stricter than those established by the EU. The percentage of people exposed to harmful levels of pollution was even higher in the case of ozone (over 95 percent), which is formed during heatwaves, than in the case of benzo(a)pyrene (over 85 percent). All of this is closely related to low-quality home heating, which dominates in Central and Eastern Europe.