HEAL’s action on air quality

Millions suffer from ill health from bad air quality, children are especially vulnerable
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Each year millions suffer from bad health as a result of bad air quality, children are especially vulnerable. HEAL works to bring the voice of vulnerable groups to heart of EU policy making.

The European Commission has just announced plans for an overhaul of laws on regulating outdoor air pollution. 2013 will be designated as the “Year of Air” and is expected to see major legislative reviews on the EU Ambient air quality law and the National Emissions Ceilings Directive.

With the support of member organisations’ expertise and resources, HEAL will continue to voice the concerns of the health and medical community, and vulnerable groups in these debates. Ambitious measures on reducing air pollution will help strengthen the economy. HEAL will also continue to highlight the linkages with EU climate change policy as well as indoor air quality and energy efficiency.

At the same time, HEAL will continue to voice its call for an EU Green Paper on indoor air quality, as a way to achieving a harmonised framework on indoor air. HEAL brings the voice of the health community as well as citizens to the DG SANCO Expert Group on Indoor Air Quality through its membership. We also continue to raise awareness with the general public on the need for healthy indoor environments.

HEAL aims to:

  • Ensure that health impacts and standards are incorporated in EU air quality laws that reflect the needs of vulnerable populations and are based on World Health Organisation’s new Air Quality Guidelines (AQG);
  • Contribute to a coordinated EU policy on indoor air quality to protect public health in particular in public spaces and for those most vulnerable in close collaboration with HEAL member organizations working on the issue.


Previous News on our policy work

Environment Council discusses the EU clean air package

At their recent meeting in Luxembourg, EU environment ministers held an exchange on proposed measures to improve air quality in Europe. HEAL is concerned by the low level of ambition expressed by some member states. Read more…

Joint Task Force on health aspects of air pollution

For the first time HEAL participated in a meeting of the Joint Task Force on Health Aspects of Air Pollution, established within the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution. Read more…

WHO on air pollution in global cities

The World Health Organization (WHO) has updated its database on urban air quality, now covering information on 1600 cities across 91 countries. The data shows that in most cities worldwide, people breathe in air that is considered to be harmful to health. Read more…

“Know your air for health” aims to help us breathe more easily

Improving air quality can limit the symptoms of asthma and other breathing problems in children and adults, say HEAL and the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients’ Associations (EFA) on the joint launch of the “Know your air for health” website. Read more…

Génon K. Jensen receives award for advocacy on air quality

HEAL’s Executive Director has received a Clean Air in Cities Award for a valuable personal contribution to improving air quality in London and elsewhere. Read more…

Analysis: will the EU air package deliver?

A recent article in the Atmospheric Environment Journal examines if the EU Commission’s Clean Air Policy Package will deliver on its promises. The authors urge for the strengthening of some of the EU’s air quality limits to complement more ambitious emission reductions. Read more…

Poland: policy changes needed to improve air quality

HEAL recently attended a conference at the Ministry of the Environment on possible changes in the law to improve air quality in the country. Measures discussed included a ban on low quality coal for household use and low emission zones. Read more…

HEAL presents views at Clean Air for Europe hearing

At an institutional hearing in Brussels, HEAL presented its view’s on the EU air package. Despite progress being made in the last decades, poor air quality is still a predominant environmental cause of death in the EU. Read more…

One in eight deaths are due to air pollution, says WHO
With new estimates, the WHO reports that in 2012 around seven million people died as a result of air pollution exposure. This finding more than doubles previous estimates and confirms that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk. Read more…

New patient information leaflets: Air quality and heart and lung health
HEAL and the EU ESCAPE project recently launched a series of information leaflets aimed at providing individuals, health professionals and heart, lung and asthma patient groups with the latest science-based guidance on how air pollution affects health in Europe, and prevention tips. Read more…
Following lively discussions, the Polish government recently gave the official go ahead for the construction of new coal power units in Opole, in southern Poland. Read more…

EU Commission launches legal action over UK air quality
HEAL welcomes the EU Commission’s recently launched legal proceedings against the UK for failing to deal with air pollution. Nitrogen dioxide, mainly from diesel engines can lead to major respiratory illnesses and premature deaths. Read more…

EU air quality strategy puts health at centre but key elements are missing

The EU Commission’s recently launched air quality package gives a central place to health but no clear roadmap for achieving it. No timetable is offered for adjusting the law which matters most for health. In January NGOs released an assessment of the 2013 EU Year of Air. Read more…

Joint letter on proposed construction machinery legislation

HEAL and other NGOs have expressed their concerns to the EU Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship at the inadequate impact assessment of options for reducing emissions from Non Road Mobile Machinery (NRMM). Read more…

Giant inflatable lungs make their way to European Parliament (EP) in Strasbourg

On 10 December fifteen MEPs held a giant pair of inflatable lungs calling on the EU Commission to propose its air package before the end of the European Year of Air. A banner with the slogan ‘our lungs are in your hands’ was addressed to all 28 EU Commissioners. The Air Package is due out on 18 December. Read more...

On 10 December HEAL spoke at a briefing co-organised by the European Voice and the European Respiratory Society (ERS). On this occasions ERS and the European Lung Foundation launched a White Book ‘Lung health in Europe Facts & Figures’. Read more...

Polish study underlines need for reduced air pollution to protect children’s health

Medical research findings published in Pediatrics journal underline the need for a phase out of the use of coal on health grounds in Poland and elsewhere. The study by a team of Polish and US researchers in Krakow shows a significant negative impact of air pollution on children’s health over a 13 year period. Read more...

Lancet research - Air pollution kills, even at guideline levels

A study published in The Lancet this month confirmed that current EU air quality legislation is far from sufficient to protect Europeans’ health. The study estimates that for every 5 micrograms per cubic metre increase in annual exposure to fine-particle pollution, the risk of dying rises by 7 percent. Read more...

HEAL ‘meets and greets’ EFA members at workshop on air quality

On the occasion of a ‘Meet and Greet the EU Institutions’ training session by HEAL member the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients Association (EFA), we were given the opportunity to participate in a workshop on air quality. Read more…

ESCAPE shows air pollution linked to low birth weight

A publication by the ESCAPE project of a study in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine shows that exposure to ambient air pollutants and traffic during pregnancy is associated with restricted foetal growth. Read more…

In October the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a specialist agency of the World Health Organization, classified outdoor air pollution as carcinogenic to humans. Read more…

Joint letter to EU Commissioners on the revision of the Thematic Strategy on air pollution

On 17 October HEAL signed a joint letter with environmental and citizens organisations to urge the EU Commission to adopt an ambitious package for cleaner air in the EU. Read more…

A recent article in the Lancet Oncology presents findings from individuals across Europe showing that exposure to particulate matter air pollution increased the risk of lung cancer. Read more...

HEAL in Portuguese Environmental Health Journal

After a request from the Portuguese Society of Environmental Health, HEAL submitted an article on air quality and children’s health to their Environmental Health journal which they produce in collaboration with their Spanish society. Read more…

Living close to heavy traffic strongly linked to heart disease deaths

Research from a study of over a million individuals in Italy shows that there is a link between long-term exposure to vehicle pollution and deaths from heart disease and lung cancer. Read more…

New health evidence underlines need for stronger EU action on air pollution

The scientific review by the World Health Organisation of evidence on health effects of air pollution is a wake-up call for decision-makers. The REVIHAAP analysis shows that health effects occur at lower concentrations and that effects are greater than previously thought. Read more…
_m Triple wins for climate, air quality and health highlighted at EU Green Week

HEAL gave a presentation at EU Green Week to showcase strategies and measures that will protect the climate, improve air quality and boost our health. Read more…

HEAL features in latest edition of Europe’s World on air quality

In the latest edition of Europe’s World HEAL Executive Director Genon Jensen outlined that the key to effective policymaking on air quality is to find synergies between policy areas. Read more…

The Unpaid Health Bill launched in Poland

Burning coal in power plants in Poland results in health costs of up to 8.2 billion every year, according to HEAL’s latest report now available in Polish. The report launched at a press conference in Warsaw, reveals for the first time the monetary health costs of health for Poland. Read more...

EU air quality measures: aim high!

Health and environmental groups warn that the proposals on future EU air policies scheduled for this autumn could fail to achieve the emission reductions needed to tackle air pollution. The joint paper submitted to the EU Commission underlines that the scientific evidence on health effects calls for the highest level of ambition. Read more…

The Unpaid Health Bill launched in Germany

Coal power plants in Germany are associated with health costs of more than 6 billion EUR per year. This is one of the findings on how coal pollution contributes to ill-health and death from the recent HEAL report “The Unpaid health bill”. The German version has now been launched with a press conference in Berlin. Read more…

Stakeholders back tighter air pollution controls

A summary of responses to the EU consultation on air quality policy was recently presented in Brussels. The answers show that the majority wants stronger emission reductions for cleaner air in Europe. Read more…

Health benefits from cleaner air

HEAL sent a letter to EU Environment Ministers ahead of the Informal Environment Council, urging them to consider the significant benefits for public health, well-being, and for the climate, that can be gained through ambitious EU measures to reduce air pollution. Read more...

HEAL to participate in EU Green Week: Cleaner air for all

HEAL will be participating at two events during EU Green Week which focuses on cleaner air for all in line with the 2013 EU Year of Air. Green Week offers the opportunity for debate, exchange of experiences and best practices on this theme. Read more...

Spotlight on Health and Clean Air

On 19 March, HEAL and the European Respiratory Society (ERS) co-organised the Spotlight on Health and Clean Air event at the EP which shed further light on air pollution and the measures that Europe needs in order to tackle this invisible killer. Read more...

Indoor air quality: results from EU research projects

Results from two EU funded research projects (HealthVent, SINPHONIE) shed light on the neglected policy issue of indoor air quality. Europeans spend the majority of their time indoors, and many EU policies influence the quality of the air we breathe inside. During the 2013 Year of Air, HEAL works to build support for an EU strategy to ensure clean air everywhere. Read more...

NGOs set strategic priorities on air quality

Sixty environmental, health and citizens’ NGOs from across the EU urge the European Commission to come forward with three priority actions to put the EU on track for cleaner air. The adoption of ambitious emission reduction commitments in the revised NEC Directive, sector legislation to cut emissions from all major sources; and enforcement and strengthening of ambient air quality limit values are crucial to improve health and environment. Read more...

Air pollution increases chances of low birth-weight babies

A new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives reveals that air pollution in towns and cities increases the chances of women giving birth to small babies. Pollution from particulate matter has been linked with up to a 10% risk increase of low-weight babies. Read more …

HEALer Anne Stauffer receives a Clean Air London 2013 Award for her tireless work on air quality

Environmental campaign group Clean Air in London (CAL) has awarded a number of individuals, including HEAL’s Deputy Director Anne Stauffer in recognition of their work to improve air quality in the capital. The Awards recognise 24 people who have made a valuable personal contribution to improving air quality in London. Read more …

Aphekom WP5 paper on health benefits of reducing urban air pollution

The APHEKOM project aimed to provide new, clear and useful information on the health effects of air pollution in Europe. It assessed the health and monetary benefits of reducing short and long term exposure to PM and ozone in 25 European cities. Read more...

Air pollution ranked as top health risk factor in Europe

The new Global Burden of Disease (GBD) assessment, released in a special issue of the leading British medical journal, The Lancet showed that outdoor air quality has been recognised as a top level risk for public health. Read more...

EU Year of Air: strengthening EU legislation to reduce health impacts from air pollution

The 2013 EU Year of Air provides great opportunities to improve public health as the Commission gears up to review EU air legislation and put forward new proposals later this year. HEAL and other stakeholders discussed what needs to be done at an international conference organised by the European Commission (EC), World Health Organisation (WHO) and the US Health Effects Institute. Read more...

Indoor air quality: launch of EU health-based ventilation guidelines

On 20 February, the HealthVent consortium will launch health-based ventilation guidelines for Europe. At the event in the EP, participants will also discuss the significance of ventilation guidelines for EU policies on health, air quality, energy, eco-design and buildings and consumer products. Read more...

New Eurobarometer: Attitudes of Europeans towards air quality

Europeans are increasingly concerned about air pollution in their countries. A recent Eurobarometer survey carried out by the European Commission highlights the views of the European public on matters of air quality and air pollution. Read more...

Air Quality in the spotlight in 2013

2013 as the EU Year of Air will include a series of expert meetings, consultations and EU research results to assess the significant public health problems and costs linked to air pollution, and contribute to policy revisions expected later in the year. HEAL will participate in the high-level kick-off event on 8 January 2013, organised by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), followed by an air quality & health conference organised by the EU Commission, World Health Organisation (WHO) and the US Health Effects Institute at the end of the month. Read more...

Exposure to traffic air pollution in early years damages lung function in children

A new study of the leading Karolinska Institute of Environmental Medicine in Sweden highlights that exposure to ambient air pollution from traffic during infancy is associated with lung function deficits in children up to eight years of age. Children sensitised to common allergens are particularly vulnerable. Read more …

HEAL Policy Workshop on Air Quality

At least half a million people die every year in the European Union due to air pollution. Higher rates of chronic cardiovascular and respiratory disease create economic costs as well as individual suffering. A HEAL policy workshop on air quality featured upcoming policy developments, new scientific evidence from recent research projects, a real time monitoring of air pollution in Brussels and best practice examples from public campaigns targeting air pollution in cities. Read more …

EEA shows city population at highest risk

The new report by the European Environment Agency (EEA) on the air quality situation in Europe in 2012 confirms that many parts of Europe still have persistent problems with particulate matter (PM) and ozone concentration levels. The situation is especially worrying for those living in cities where almost a third of the population is exposed to levels above EU air quality standards. When compared to stricter WHO air quality guidelines, almost every European living in a city is exposed to concentrations harmful to health. Read more ...

How is indoor air quality in your school?

The EU funded SINPHONIE project will soon launch results on the indoor air quality situation in schools and health effects on children. In this first ever European wide monitoring, 40 participating scientists carried out fieldwork in 118 schools in 24 countries, involving around 350 classrooms with 8000 students. HEAL is a member of the SINPHONIE advisory board and participated in the final meeting in Hungary. Read more …

Policy Workshop: EU Year of Air – how can we reduce air pollution to improve health?

While there have been some improvements in air quality in Europe, air pollution continues to be a massive public health problem, which is responsible for nearly half a million deaths each year in the European Union alone. On 13 September, HEAL is organising a policy workshop for an exchange on health effects of air pollution, on what is being planned for the EU Year of Air 2013 and on how groups can become involved in EU policy decisions for cleaner air. Learn more...

NGOs urge enforcement on air quality

HEAL and over 25 other NGOs urge commissioner Potočnik to take immediate action against those Member States who are breaching their obligations to comply with limit values set by the EU’s ambient air quality legislation. Every day, in many places across the EU, the limits for particulate matter (PM10) continue to be breached although EU legislation entered into force more than seven years ago. Learn more...

HEAL backs 10 guiding principles and call to tackle an invisible killer

HEAL supports European lung experts’ recommendations for stronger EU air quality legislation and calls on EU and national leaders to respond to this public health threat by also adopting more ambitious climate policies. The 10 guiding principles of the European Respiratory Society are relevant not only for air quality but also for climate policy. Learn more…

EU leadership for pollution reduction needed

HEAL and other organisations urge European leaders to take all necessary steps towards an ambitious revision of the Gothenburg Protocol on air pollution, which will have major implications for the future of EU air quality. As negotiations on the protocol draw to an end, the EU should go ahead on ambitious reduction commitments. For a high ambition level, the benefits would outweigh the costs 55 times. Learn more…

Act now or face costly consequences, warns OECD

Environment and health groups are alarmed by the OECD’s prediction that urban air pollution will be the top environmental cause of mortality worldwide by 2050, ahead even of dirty water and lack of sanitation. The OECD outlook examines past trends and projects future trends if new policies are not introduced to reduce these risks. Learn more …

Previous actions taken

European Citizen´s Initiative "30km/h – making streets liveable!"

European citizens are calling on the EU to introduce 30km/h as the standard speed limits for villages, towns and cities. More information here.

EU public consultation on options for revision of the EU Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution and related policies

All stakeholders and interested parties are invitied to contribute with their views on the review of the EU’s Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution and identify options for a comprehensive air pollution policy package that would aim to ensure full implementation of the existing legal framework and make further progress to reduce the negative impacts of air pollution in the long term - Deadline 4 March 2013

Capture the invisible for the EEA photo story competition

A competition has been created by the European Environment Agency (EEA) inviting participants to tell a story about Europe’s air in three pictures. The aim is to raise awareness of the importance of air quality. The competition is open to all citizens of European Union Member States and several other countries which cooperate with the EEA. Participants must submit three pictures and a short text which tells a story about air, choosing one of four themes: air and health; air and technology; air and nature; and air and cities. Deadline for submissions is 7 October. Act now!

About HEAL

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. Read more »

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HEAL has over 65 member organisations, representing health professionals, not-for-profit health insurers, doctors, nurses, cancer and asthma groups, citizens, women’s groups, youth groups, environmental NGOs, scientists and public health institutes. Members include international and Europe-wide organisations, as well as national and local groups. Read more »

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