By Kate Abnett

BRUSSELS, Sept 8 (.) – Environmental factors such as air pollution and heat waves exacerbated by climate change contribute to about 13% of all deaths in Europe, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said on Tuesday .

A total of 630,000 deaths in the 27 countries of the European Union, plus the United Kingdom, were attributed to environmental factors in 2012, the latest year for which data is available, the EEA noted in a report. « These deaths can be prevented and significantly reduced through efforts to improve the quality of the environment, » he added.

Air pollution is the biggest environmental health risk in Europe, contributing to more than 400,000 premature deaths each year. Long-term exposure to pollutants can cause diabetes, lung disease, and cancer, and there is data to suggest that it may be linked to higher death rates among COVID-19 patients.

Europe’s pollution levels plummeted due to lockdowns to contain the coronavirus pandemic, but the drop is projected to be temporary and most EU countries will not meet their targets of reducing air pollutants in the next decade. .

The EEA said the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the connection between the environment and human health, demonstrating the increased risk of disease transmission from animals to humans as a result of degradation of the environment and production. of meat.

« COVID-19 has been another wake-up call, making us very aware of the relationship between our ecosystems and our health, » EU Health Officer Stella Kyriakides said in a statement.

The European Commission has proposed targets in the EU to make agriculture more sustainable, protecting natural habitats and curbing the use of pesticides, although farmers’ organizations have warned that those targets could reduce crop yields.

The EEA said the quality of drinking water is invariably high across the EU, but raised the alarm about the release of antibiotics through sewage treatment plants, which can lead to the spread of antimicrobial resistance.

Infections with drug-resistant bacteria cause approximately 25,000 deaths in the EU each year. (Information by Kate Abnett; edited in Spanish by Tomás Cobos)