Further air quality measures needed to help improve public health

A summary of research published in the European Respiratory Journal

Current air pollution levels are having a negative impact on the health of people living in Europe, even when the level of pollution falls below the limits put in place to prevent ill-health. A new report, based on a workshop held by leading European organisations, provides insights into the next steps needed to improve this situation.

The aim of the workshop was to review the latest scientific findings in the field of air quality and health. It brought together experts from the World Health Organization, European Respiratory Society, International Society for Environmental Epidemiology and the Health Effects Institute.

The report, published in the European Respiratory Journal, summarises the meeting discussions and asks the question of how to achieve the most health benefits with new legislation that is also cost effective.

Key findings in the report include:

  • Current air quality regulations have contributed to improved air quality, but air pollution remains a major health and environmental concern, leading to more than 400,000 premature deaths each year.
  • Since the European Union Air Quality Directive was published in 2008, there has been a lot of research published on how pollutants cause ill health and what levels of pollutants can be considered safe. Findings from recent studies found a large potential for health benefits by lowering current limits.
  • There is a continued need for research to show how even very low levels of air pollution may affect our health.

The report authors discuss the European Green Deal – a set of policies proposed by the European Commission in 2019 that aims to make the EU more sustainable. It aims to put in place a zero-emission strategy by 2050. The report authors believe that the Deal can provide a unique opportunity to put into practice the changes that are needed to improve health.

Read the original research paper

Air pollution and Health: Recent Advances in Air Pollution Epidemiology to Inform the European Green Deal – a joint workshop report of ERS, WHO, ISEE and HEI