In Europe, many cities exceed the limits imposed by the air quality standards identified by the World Health Organization (WHO). Although in recent decades there has been a decrease in the rate of pollutants, there is still a long way to go to improve the environmental conditions in which we live.
The main goals of each country should be the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and the use of plastic through proper political options to raise awareness of the citizens about the environmental issues and encourage companies to use renewable energy.
And, while pollution is present all around the globe, in this post we look at the 10 most polluted countries in Europe in 2021, along with their relative pollution index.
NOTE: The following ranking is based on the data from the well-known international site Numbeo, regarding the level of pollution (Pollution Index). This index mainly takes into consideration the air and water pollution indices, to a lesser extent other pollution indices (sanitation, noise pollution, public parks, …). Relevant data from the World Health Organization is included.
The Pollution Index of each country is based on the data collected by Numbeo and takes into account the following pollution indices:
- Air quality
- Access to drinking water
- Water pollution
- Waste management
- Perception of the population on cleanliness and order
- Sound and light pollution at night
- Presence of public green
- Degree of discomfort in experiencing the city due to pollution
However, the Pollution Index adds greater weight to items concerning air and water pollution and less to other indices, such as noise pollution and the degree of discomfort of the population.
10. Romania, 58.42
The level of air pollution is quite high in this country. There is especially a high rate of particulate matter – all the toxic substances emitted by industries and vehicles. The quality and accessibility of drinking water is the least worrying figure with a pollution index of only 38.00.
The situation is not good when it comes to parks and green areas, which need more care and protection. The capital, Bucharest, is the most polluted city in the country, with an air pollution index equal to 76.54.
9. Serbia, 60.32
Except for the quality and accessibility of drinking water, all other parameters report worrying data. The light and air pollution reach levels that should lead to a sudden restraint and gives out an alarming fact for the satisfaction of the cleanliness and order – only 38.59. In the capital, Belgrade, the air pollution index is 63.21 and it’s one of the European cities most enveloped by smog (with a surge of fine particles recorded in recent years).
8. Bosnia and Herzegovina, 62.33
While the quality and accessibility of drinking water reach high standards of 70.28, along with the light pollution with a Pollution Index of only 36.46, the situation is critical for the rest of the parameters. The air pollution is very high with a value of 66.81. There are plenty of industrial plants that are responsible for emissions of highly toxic particulate matter. Tuzla is one of the cities most afflicted with this issue, where air pollution has reached a rate of 89.06.
7. Russia, 62.79
There are numerous pollution issues, including low air quality (29.51) and waterways pollution which makes the quality and accessibility of drinking water rather poor. The only positive data is the care of green areas in the cities. The pollution in the country is mainly due to the presence of numerous plants that use fossil fuel to produce energy and the combustion of coal that is responsible for acid rain, which pollutes cultivated fields, streams, and entire ecosystems.
6. Ukraine, 65.08
The pollution levels in this country are very high. One of the areas most affected by this problem is definitely Chernobyl, the city where, in 1896, a nuclear complex exploded. As a matter of fact, the toxic consequences of this event are still visible and recorded today.
Water, earth, and air are highly contaminated and the pollution index in the capital, Kyiv, is very high – 66.31.
5. Bulgaria, 65.33
The air pollution index of this country is among the highest in Europe – 71.01. Every year, the presence of particulate matter records levels much higher than those established by the rules on air quality. The combustion of coal to produce energy is still widespread throughout the country, both, industrially and in terms of domestic heating. The capital, Sofia, is often shrouded in smog, which appears in the form of constant white fog. The air pollution level of this city is 77.05.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), pollution is one of the causes of the decrease in life expectancy of Bulgarians for a total of two years.
4. Malta, 77.07
Due to being a small island, its territorial structure reduces the possibility for people to move away from the most polluted centers to rural areas. Anyhow, the country has very high levels of air and water pollution, as well as poor maintenance of green areas and parks. Among the factors responsible for the emissions of pollutants, we find the high presence of industries, waste disposal sites, and, obviously, vehicles. Valletta, the capital, is among the cities with the most smog, where the air pollution index is 75.00.
3. Albania, 77.77
It is the country with the most worrying data in Europe. Pollution of air, water and that due to the presence of waste reaches alarming numbers that are exacerbated in some cities. This is the case of Tirana, where the air is practically unbreathable, given that the pollution index has risen to 80.29 and the water quality is very low, only 26.83.
2. North Macedonia, 80.23
North Macedonia ranks second among the most polluted European countries. The territorial structure of some very polluted cities, such as Skopje and Tetovo, which located within a valley and surrounded by mountains, is certainly complicit in a situation in which the air is trapped in a fog of smog. But smog is obviously the result of human-related activities, from industrial to domestic ones. Another factor that contributes to the increase in pollution in the country is the growing urbanization at the expense of green areas. The quality index of parks in the capital, Skopje, is 32.68 and that of air pollution is 89.93.
1. Monaco, 86.83
The most polluted country in Europe in 2021 is the Principality of Monaco. The reasons for this are the intense traffic, hence, the high presence of vehicles in the city, and the use of fuel oil for heating systems. At a territorial level, the low intensity of wind and periods of intense heat are complicit in the worsening of these data. But the problem of air quality in cities like Monaco is that it remains very high. It’s so high that governments have recently tried to raise awareness and make citizens use public transport and purchase less polluting cars.