According to a report by the European Environment Agency, atmospheric pollution from fine particulate matter – particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter – caused the death of 253,000 people in the European Union in 2021.

The Agency said the number has increased compared to 2020 when premature deaths of 238,000 people were attributed to fine particles that penetrate deep into the lungs.

The increase in fatalities was because of higher exposure to pollutants and a slight rise in mortality due to Covid-19 in the European Union, according to the European Environment Agency.

Despite the slight rise in the past year, the long-term appears favorable, as the number of premature deaths attributed to fine particulate matter decreased by 41%, between 2005 and 2021, according to the study.

Despite the “great progress” made in recent years, “the impact of atmospheric pollution on our health remains excessively high,” said Lena Ilja-Mononen, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency, in the press release. Atmospheric pollution remains the most significant environmental threat to the health of Europeans, emphasized in the report.