European air pollution exposure spikes amid ongoing heatwave

As temperatures across the continent soar, dangerous levels of air pollution are being recorded, with wildfires helping significantly increase emissions. 

Europe is seeing huge spikes in air pollution levels as a result of an ongoing record breaking heatwave that has brought several countries to a standstill, with tens of thousands forced to flee homes to escape major blazes. 

A warning was issued by the EU Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) on Tuesday 19th July over unhealthy levels of ozone across southern and western regions, with fears the effected area could spread north. Based on a World Health Organisation exposure limit of 100 micrograms of surface-level ozone per cubic meter of air over an eight-hour period, Southeast England, northern France, and Benelux saw levels exceed 120 micrograms yesterday. 

Ozone forms when heat and sunlight meet greenhouse gases like Nitrous Oxide (N2O) and Carbon Dioxide (CO2), and organic compounds released when fossil fuels are burnt. This process accelerates during warmer weather. Yesterday, thermometers in the UK recorded temperatures in excess of 40C for the first time in the country’s history, an all-time-high of 39.3C was recorded in Brittany, on France’s northern Atlantic coast.

A severe heat warning was issued for many other parts of the country, with 16,000 people forced to leave their homes due to wildfires in the north and south west by Monday afternoon. Flames were also raging across areas of Spain, Portugal, and Greece. Meanwhile, on Wednesday 20th July, Belgium is predicted to see temperatures hit 40C, which will further exacerbate the air quality crisis.

According to a 2019 study in the journal Environmental Research Letters, Europe records 55,000 premature deaths that can be attributed to long-term ozone pollution exposure. Wildfires contribute a significant amount of CO2, N2O, and methane (CH4) to the atmosphere, all of which add to global warming while placing public heath at risk. In April, the US National Center for Atmospheric Research found that blazes in the Pacific Northwest are now so severe they alter air quality patterns across North America. 

Image credit: Ted Erski


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Andrew Lohmann
Andrew Lohmann
1 year ago

Living nature is compensating well is no doubt why we have lasted so long in our own pollution and excessive consumption. A climate flip where the heat makes it hotter might be happening.Nothing like this has been seen on Earth since much earlier life 2-3 billion years ago if it gets that bad high life will have gone.

1 year ago

We heard there are high levels of particulates too reaching as far as Paris.

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