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EU's oldest trucks and buses add to Greece's air pollution problems

In Greece, the planned shutdown of lignite plants in coming years will play a key role in improving air quality, however, new policies are needed to address the environmental problem arising from road transport.

Greece is home to the oldest trucks and buses in Europe, according to data from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), worsening air pollution levels in the country.

Since 2017, premature deaths due to air pollution in Greece have been on the rise, reaching almost 6,220 people in 2019, in a worrying trend.

The fleet of vehicles, both passenger and commercial, on Greek roads is one of the oldest in the European Union, reflecting the country’s economic problems and legislation that allows old trucks and buses to be imported.

The average age of trucks in Greece is 21.2 years - the only country in Europe where they are more than 20-years-old. In the European Union the average age is at 13 years. ACEA data also show that the average age of buses in Greece is at 19.9 years, versus 11.7 years old in Europe. The age of the vehicles significantly affects the quality of air we breathe, as older cars have higher emission levels.

In Greece, the planned shutdown of lignite plants in coming years will play a key role in improving air quality, however, new policies are needed to address the environmental problem arising from road transport.

Data shows that the fleet of passenger cars in Greece is not only aging, but also growing. The average age of passenger vehicles in Greece is at 16 years, compared to 11.5 years in Europe, reaching 5.2 million vehicles in 2019, from 5.1 million in 2018.

The fleet of cars on Greek roads got older amidst the country’s economic crisis, contributing to the increased levels of suspended particles (PM10 and PM2.5), nitrogen oxides and nitrogen dioxide (NOX, NO2), pollutants seen daily in urban centers.

Data from Statista.com show that the number of premature deaths in Greece due to air pollution levels increased from 5,900 in 2017, to 6,110 in 2018 and 6,220 in 2019. Strokes, heart diseases, lung disease, respiratory infections etc. are among the most common causes of these deaths.

Coronavirus problems grow

Increased air pollution is also a factor that makes a people more vulnerable to coronavirus, according to studies.

Lockdowns have temporarily reduced air pollution levels, but according to a recent study by the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, there is a link between long-term exposure to high air pollution levels and increased mortality from coronavirus. For every extra microgram of particles per cubic meter of air, there is an 11% higher chance of a coronavirus mortality arising.

It is estimated that in Greece, almost one in ten coronavirus deaths could have been avoided if air pollution had not worsened the condition of some patients.
 

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