he World Health Organization (WHO) has today published its much awaited new evidence-based Global Air Quality guidelines, the first update since 2005. Health groups now urge the European Union and national decision-makers to protect the health of hundreds of millions by stepping up efforts for clean air for health. This can be achieved first and foremost by fully aligning EU air quality standards with the science based guidelines and other new studies - a step that thousands of citizens have been calling for.
The road transport sector is one of the main sources of pollution in cities. It also transforms public spaces into noisy and grey car zones, hindering active mobility. Transport pollution not only harms people’s health in many ways (e.g. respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous system impacts) but, with its infrastructure, can affect our mental health and behaviour.
In Poland, we have witnessed a constant growth of transport emissions with a significant decrease of public transport connections (both intercity and local) in the last 15 years. A quarter of cars in Poland are located in the five biggest agglomerations, where the number of cars per 1000 inhabitants increased in the last 10 years.
For two of Poland’s largest cities, Warsaw and Cracow, it is estimated that 75% of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions come from cars. Thus, the transport sector is a major contributor to air pollution in Poland, where poor air quality leads to 50,000 premature deaths annually. In addition, the transport sector is a major contributor to climate change. The Polish government has not developed any coherent national policy which would address all aspects of transport pollution.
There is a clear need for local, national and also European decision-makers to act immediately to protect people’s health and the environment from transport pollution.
In September and October 2021 the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) invites participants from the health sector, non-governmental organisations and anyone concerned to a webinar series to consider the linkages between transport, physical and mental health and lifestyle diseases, especially in cities. With our guests, we will learn about recent studies on the harmful effects of transport on our health and how the health sector has been active to showcase the burden of disease from the transport sector.
At the same time, many mayors and city councils have taken action for healthy mobility and clean air in recent years, with e.g. increasing opportunities for walking and cycling; setting up Low Emission Zones or making public transport more comfortable and reliable. In the webinar series, we will therefore also share good practice on boosting residents’ health through changed urban mobility patterns.
There will be simultaneous translation English and Polish.
Registration to the series will open in September.
WEBINAR 1 – Transport, air pollution and health
16 September, 5-6.30 p, CEST
This webinar aims to provide an overview on the extent of pollution from transport and the impacts on people’s health, especially in cities in Poland. We will be hearing about recent science on transport pollutants’ health harm (e.g.NO2) and learn how the transport sector in Poland contributes to the health bill, compared to the household and energy sectors.
- Levente Molnar, European Environment Agency
- Prof. Artur Badyda, Politechnika Warszawska
- Bartosz Piłat, Polish Smog Alert (Polski Alarm Smogowy)
The webinar will be moderated by Joanna Brzezińska, HEAL.
There will be simultaneous translation into English and Polish.
Register here to join the webinar
WEBINAR 2 – How active mobility and green cities can support tackling lifestyle diseases
The so-called lifestyle diseases – obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular and respiratory disease, cancer – cause the largest burden of disease in Poland, and across the EU. With the webinar, we aim to highlight the role that a healthy city environment plays in the prevention of chronic disease, and present good practice, in a conversation with health sector representatives and disease specialists.
WEBINAR 3 – Air pollution, mental health and neurological impacts
Recent science points to poor air quality as a possible cause for the rise in neuropsychiatric disorders and mental health problems during the human lifecycle. Exposure to pollution during pregnancy could affect fetal brain development and increase the risk of neurodegenerative diseases in old age.
At the same time, there is a large body of evidence that exposure to green and blue areas in cities support mental health (e.g. reduction in depressive symptoms).
During the webinar, we will discuss the link between air pollution and neuropsychiatric disorders, the benefits for mental health from sustainable and safe cities, and the urgent need for political decisions in this matter.
WEBINAR 4 – Solutions and good practices for a healthy urban mobility
In recent years, a number of cities have taken action to clean up the air from transport pollution and change urban mobility. This includes Paris, where a 15-minutes city concept is being developed, the Spanish city of Ponteverda, which became a pedestrian’s paradise, or Vienna, where local transport can be used for 1EUR a day. Polish policy-makers can therefore draw from a huge good practice base, and some have already started doing just that. Polls show that Polish and European city dwellers support sustainable solutions like more green spaces, active mobility facilities and public transport promotion.