Healthy life years lost due to fine particles

  • Inhabitants of Flanders on average lose 14 healthy months due to fine particles

    In 2018, potentially 148 healthy years of life per 10,000 inhabitants were lost due to the impact of fine particles. Translated into the impact on total life expectancy of the Flemish population (average 82.3 years), this means that every inhabitant in Flanders, if exposed throughout their lives to the current levels of pollution, suffers a potential loss of 1.2 healthy years of life (DALYs). This means on average inhabitants of Flanders will have 14 fewer healthy months due to exposure to fine particles.


    The number of healthy years of life lost (DALYs) through exposure to fine particles per 10,000 inhabitants declined in the 2005-2018 period.  In 2018 there was however a slight increase. Meteorological conditions can play a role here, such as the dry summer of 2018, but a precise cause is difficult to determine.

  • Long-term exposure to PM2,5-particles has largest health impact

    The long-term exposure to PM2.5 in particular has a strong health impact: this exposure accounted in 2018 for 84% of the total health impact of fine particles. The majority of long-term exposure to PM2.5 results in premature mortality, but also higher numbers of asthma patients and lung cancers play an important role. The impact of long-term exposure to PM10 amounted to 15% in 2018. Short-term exposure has a much lower impact. The combined impact of short-term exposure to PM10 and to PM2.5 was less than 1% of the total health impact of fine particles.


Flemish Environment Agency (VMM): Milieurapport (MIRA), Verloren gezonde levensjaren 


DALY: stands for ‘Disability Adjusted Life Year’ or potentially lost healthy life year. It is a measure used by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to enable a worldwide comparison of the disease burden of a population. Various effects of fine particles (and other pollutants) are expressed in the same unit, whereby account is taken of the severity of the effect. 

PM10: fine particles smaller than 10 µm. 

PM2.5: fine particles smaller than 2.5 µm. 

Publication date

22 December 2020

Next update

November 2021

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