From: Alice Taylor
Albanians Losing Years of Life and Dying Prematurely Due to Air Pollution

Albanian citizens and residents have one of the highest risks of premature death due to air quality in Europe.

They rank alongside Kosovo, Serbia, Bulgaria, and North Macedonia in terms of the highest concentrations of premature deaths. The number of premature deaths due to air pollution across Europe is around 400,000 a year.

This data comes from the European Environment Agency (EEA) which shows that around 75% of the continent’s population are exposed to excessive levels of fine particulate matter. Long-term exposure to this is responsible for some 417,000 premature deaths in 2018, of which 379,000 were in the EU. This is high but a decline of around 13% was observed in the previous decade.

The number of premature deaths from long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide have halved since 2009 and account for 55,000 deaths. Ground-level ozone is responsible for some 20,600 premature deaths, an increase of 20% from 2009.

Only three countries in Europe; Estonia, Finland, Iceland, and Ireland had particle matter levels below the WHO guidelines.

The situation in the Balkans is considerably worse than in the rest of the continent. Not only are premature deaths high in these countries, but the number of years of life lost (YLL) is also concerning.

In terms of YLL, Albania, Serbia, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, and Kosovo were the worst performers.

Albania noted 5000 premature deaths attributed to particle matter and YLL with some collective 57,400 years lost during the last decade due to pollutants. It’s reported that up to 23% of deaths are due to environmental matters.

In 2019, the United Nations sounded the alarm about citizens in the Western Balkans suffering from reduced life expectancy due to “alarming levels of air pollution”. They noted that those living in the region were subjected to some of the highest concentrations of air pollution in Europe, up to five times the EU guideline levels.

The 18 major cities that were surveyed were found to average between 120 and 180 days of considerable pollution per year. EU laws restrict the number of days to just 35, meaning that cities in the region are over the limit, at the very least 85 days a year.

Tirana is the third most polluted city in Europe and has been getting worse over the last couple of years.

The top spot was taken by Tetovo in North Macedonia Macedonia, followed by Chelyabinsk in Russia. Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia came in at number five followed by Dnipro in Ukraine and Naples in Italy.

In terms of Tirana’s global ranking, it comes in at number 31 out of 314. In 2018 it ranked at number 38 meaning it has got more polluted over the last 12 months.

Despite Mayor Erion Veliaj’s efforts to make Tirana a green and “child friendly” city over the last 5 years, the situation has deteriorated further. Bike lanes, tree planting, electric taxis, and other efforts publicized by the Municipality do not seem to have had any impact.

Tirana citizens also do not have access to safe drinking water from the taps and most do not have water on a 24/7 basis.

The city is also the 4th biggest contributor of waste plastic to the Mediterranean, more so than the city of Durres that sits on the coast. According to the IUCN “The Mediterranean: Mare plasticum” report, it leaks 1,123 tonnes of waste into the sea every year. It was beaten by Podgorica with 1662 tonnes, Rome with 1809 tonnes and Muntazah with 1912 tonnes. It performed better than Skopje, Tripoli and four other big Egyptian cities.