Umeå in the north of Sweden boasts the best urban air in Europe

Which European cities have the cleanest air?

Which European cities have the cleanest air?

According to the European Environment Agency’s new report, air quality was good in only eleven cities during the 2020-2021 period

The European Environment Agency (EEA) has released a report which shows the air quality in over 340 cities on the continent for the period 2020-2021. What’s immediately striking is that the cities with the best air are located either in the northeastern Nordic region or the southwestern Atlantic region. The top 14 cities are located in one of those two areas, and according to the agency only the top 11 meet the WHO’s top categorization for good air quality.

Europe benefits from the most comprehensive air quality monitoring network in the world. Data for the report has been collected from 400 monitoring stations measuring fine particulate matter concentrations.

Dust matter matters

The fact that only 11 cities met the WHO standards for good air is quite alarming considering that the data reflects the years of the peak COVID pandemic, which were marked by lockdowns and a drastic reduction in motorized traffic and industrial activities.

As for the best performers here’s a list of the top 11 cities that did not exceed the annual level of 5 μg/m3 of fine particulate matter (also known as PM2.5).

  1. Umeå (Sweden)
  2. Faro (Portugal)
  3. Funchal (Portugal)
  4. Tampere (Finland)
  5. Narva (Estonia)
  6. Stockholm (Sweden)
  7. Uppsala (Sweden)
  8. Tallinn (Estonia)
  9. Bergen (Norway)
  10. Reykjavik (Iceland)
  11. Norrköping (Sweden)

However, if we take into account the European Union's annual limit value for fine particles of 25 micrograms per cubic metre of air, the limit value was only exceeded in the three most polluted cities. That shows the great difference between the WHO guideline and the norm of the European Union, however, it should be noted that the WHO takes a categorization approach depending on the levels.

If you’re wondering which European cities were the worst performers in terms of air quality, these were Nowy Sacz (Poland), and Cremona and Padova, in Italy. These three cities exceeded the norm of 25 µg/m3 and thus can be categorized to have very poor air quality.

If you want to consult the full EEA ranking and see how your city fared, you can do so here.



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