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A new report from the European Court of Auditors published on Tuesday warns that EU citizens’ health is still not sufficiently protected from air pollution.

Every year, air pollution causes about 400,000 premature deaths in the EU and hundreds of billions of euros in health-related external costs. However, these significant human and economic costs have not yet been reflected in adequate action across the Union, warn the auditors. They add that particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ground level ozone are the air pollutants responsible for most of the early deaths and that people in urban areas are particularly exposed.

Anne Stauffer, Director for Strategy and Campaigns at the Health and Environment Alliance commented: “The EU Court of Auditors report’s findings show that air pollution alert systems are inconsistent and patchy – worrying news for everybody, but particularly for those at risk, like asthma patients, pregnant women and the elderly. What is urgently needed are clear, consistent and strict EU requirements on information and alert systems. The report also confirms that the alignment of EU air quality standards with the World Health’s Organization’s health-protective recommendations is overdue“.