Air pollution is the number one environmental threat to health in the European region and globally, leading to 400,000 premature deaths and hundreds of billions of euros in health costs in the EU each year (1). There is a large body of evidence on how air pollution harms health. Poor air quality is a leading risk factor for chronic disease including heart and lung diseases or cancer. In the past years, studies have especially pointed to children being particularly at risk of harm by polluted air, given that their heart, brain and nervous systems are still developing. Their health can already be affected before birth, with lifelong consequences (2).
Following the European Commission’s Conclusions on the Fitness Check of the Ambient Air Quality Directive from November 2019 (3), European Environment Ministers today adopted joint conclusions (4) where they “welcome the Commission’s intention to propose a revision of air quality standards, and look forward to discussions on such proposals, including on a possible closer alignment of the EU air quality standards with the WHO air quality guidelines”.
The overwhelming majority of EU member states fail to keep current EU air quality standards for particulate matter or nitrogen dioxide.
Sophie Perroud, Policy Coordinator, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL): ‘Scientific evidence shows that there is no safe level of air pollution and every breath counts.Today governments have finally shown readiness to respond to this health emergency. HEAL is looking forward to a swift Commission proposal on alignment EU air quality standards with WHO guidelines and the equally swift completion of Council and Parliament negotiations, ensuring tighter EU standards will be in force before the next EU elections.’
Sascha Marschang, Acting Secretary General, European Public Health Alliance (EPHA): “Air pollution causes costly diseases and suffocates our health systems. The best way to cut costs is to prevent pollution at the outset. Today, Environment ministers rang the alarm bell – tomorrow, governments are called on to act boldly.” –