The study by the European Environment Agency (EEA) released Thursday ranked Germany ahead of other serious polluters like Britain, France or any eastern European countries.
But if the polluters were ranked based on economy size, eastern countries such as Bulgaria and Romania would be on top, according to the environmental watchdog.
The agency, which used 2009 numbers in factors including CO2 emissions, said that pollution from facilities like steelworks and power plants caused between €102 billion and €169 billion in health and environmental costs across the European Union.
That’s about €200 per person in the EU, but Germany accounted for about a fifth of those costs, according to the environmental watchdog.
Most of the expenses were related to treatment people need for persistent respiratory problems and the damaging cost of acid rain, the agency said.
The EEA underlined that none of the individual industrial facilities were operating illegally, but it reported that just 622 facilities across the continent – representing about six percent of the total number – were responsible for three quarters of the industrial pollution damage to Europe’s health and environment.
“We cannot afford to ignore these problems,” said EEA head Jaqueline McGlade in a statement.
It may not be surprising that German industry causes extensive pollution because it has the EU’s largest population, at more than 80 million.
The country has also been a leader in pollution reduction efforts. Berlin’s air was recently named as having Europe’s cleanest, though German cities Düsseldorf and Stuttgart were at the bottom of the list.