Article by Melinda Cooper
According to the 2020 edition of Health at a Glance: Europe the emission of toxic particles per capita in the air have fallen in most of the European countries between 2005 and 2017 – but not in Hungary.
Particular matters, such as and are one of the main polluters with adverse health effects. These are small particles of less than 10 microns in diameter ( ) or even as small as 2.5 microns () which are suspended in the air, and they are mainly the result of the combustion of fuels for energy generation, domestic heating and vehicle engines. The smaller the particles, the more toxic they are as they can penetrate deep in the respiratory system and can cause severe damage to the health.
The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) published their latest biannual report in December 2020, and figures show that within 31 observed countries in Europe Hungary ranks the worst in-terms of improvement. Here the air quality had deteriorated significantly in the decade before 2017, rising from 4kg per capita in 2005 to nearly 5kg by 2017. The only other country with negative results is Bulgaria, with a change from 4kg per capita to 4.3kg.
The situation is slightly different in the capital, as Budapest shows one of the best results within the European capitals, where the air quality has improved by nearly 25% between 2003 and 2018. This is still far above the WHO guideline, but none the less it’s a good sign.
In regards of our neighbours: Romania shows no change from the 6kg / capita, but all other countries neighbouring Hungary managed to achieve great improvements, especially the Slovak Republic, which nearly doubled its air quality.
The effects of bad air are reflected in the rates of premature deaths per population, where Hungary ranges between 120-180 death per 100.000 population, alongside countries like Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and Croatia.
It is interesting, that when the population was surveyed about their perception of the air quality in their own country, Hungarians’ opinion was in line with the objectively measured figures, but in the countries where air quality has improved, the population perception was the opposite – they believed that the air has deteriorated, despite the fact that it was improving.
Sadly, our country leads in several other tables of negative connotation in this report, such as avoidable mortality (deaths that could have been potentially avoided with better public health policies or healthcare, such as ischaemic heart disease, lung cancer, accidents or vaccination), number of consultations with doctors, hospitalisation times, alcohol consumption ( including among young people) or smoking.
One big positive surprise is the data about suicide, in which Hungary was leading for decades, but new figures show that between 2000 and 2017 this rate has fallen by nearly 50%.