Leading health experts working in the Western Balkans, together with the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), have launched the first regional Expert Statement to call for the development and implementation of ambitious policies aimed at reducing air pollution. The Western Balkans have to fully comply with the international commitments and implement the latest World Health Organization Air Quality Guidelines in order to deliver a rapid response to prevent the negative effects of air pollution.
Protecting every human being from air pollution – especially those who are most vulnerable – requires developing and implementing disease-preventing policies that build on the latest science, that prioritise prevention and precaution, and are enshrined in binding legislation with clear goals and timelines.
In 2019, the European Environment Agency estimated that fine particulate matter PM2.5 caused more than 25,000 premature deaths in the Western Balkans alone: 4,000 in Albania, 5,900 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2,800 in Kosovo*, 900 in Montenegro, 3,400 in North Macedonia, and 11,400 in Serbia. In the same year, more than 2,200 lives were lost due to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone (O3) pollution.
Leaders in the region need to identify and prioritise measures that will provide for the greatest health, climate and clean air benefit. Air pollution is a major environmental and public health threat and should be addressed through ambitious and consistent actions aimed at a healthier future. The European Union has adopted a Zero Pollution commitment, as a part of the Green Deal, and has also committed to mitigating climate change by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases by 55% until 2030 (compared to 1990 levels). The leaders of the Western Balkans need to increase the participation of scientists, public health experts, epidemiologists and clinicians in decision-making processes to ensure that the timely integration of the Zero Air pollution objectives into environmental and health policies are in place.
Also, this is a public call for other health experts to sign the Expert Statement or to send it to policymakers in their regions.
The full version of the Expert Statement on Health Response toward Zero Air Pollution in the Balkan region ‘’Health voice for Healthier choice‘’ can be found in English, Albanian, Bosnian, Macedonian and Serbian.
* This designation is without prejudice to position on status and is in line with the UNSCR 1244/99 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.