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Bulgaria has Europe's dirtiest air, report finds

Bulgaria also has the highest concentration of sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide in the air.

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A new report says that Europeans are still breathing unacceptably high levels of air pollution. (Oliver Berg/DPA/AFP/Getty Images)

If you've ever driven through Germany's industrial west or been stuck in Parisian traffic, you'd think that either country would be a contender for Europe's most polluted air.

Not so, says a new report compiled by the European Environment Agency. Instead, that honor goes to Bulgaria, which has the highest concentrations of two major varieties of particulate matter.

The tiny gas particles float from factories, vehicles and other polluters, and can trigger a variety of illnesses from asthma to cancer, reported The New York Times.

Bulgarian air also holds the highest concentration of sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide.

The EEA's report found that European city-dwellers still breathe unacceptably high levels of pollution, despite measures to curb carbon emissions.

That includes 96 percent of urbanites being exposed to particulate matter above guidelines set by the World Health Organization, and 98 percent of them being exposed to ozone levels above WHO limits.

Poland and northern Italian cities also had high levels of particulates and ozone respectively.

That said, air pollutants in Europe have declined over the last 10 years due to stricter regulations. But that's still not enough.

"To get onto a sustainable path, Europe will have to be ambitious and go beyond current legislation," said the EEA's executive director Hans Bruyninckx.

While Europe at one time suffered the worst air pollution in the world, that mantle now rests on East Asia, particularly around Beijing.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/science/131015/bulgaria-has-europes-dirtiest-air-report-finds