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European Environment and Health Ministers agree to accelerate Europe’s work to minimise environmental health hazards

The fourth meeting of the European Environment and Health Ministerial Board in Belgrade concluded that urgent action is needed in Europe to tackle environmental health hazards including air pollution, asbestos, mercury, unsafe water and poor sanitation.

The European Environment and Health Ministerial Board (EHMB), composed of four health ministers, four environment ministers and four representatives of intergovernmental organisations of the 53 member countries of the WHO European region, is the political face and driving force of international politics in environment and health for the implementation of the commitments made in the European environment and health process.

At the fourth meeting, the Board agreed to accelerate work in Europe to minimise the health impact of environmental health hazards in order to follow up to the commitments made at the Fifth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health in 2010.

Ministers also reviewed the progress and challenges in the implementation of these commitments as well as today’s main strategic directions and environment and health priorities in the WHO European Region.

On air quality, noting the most recent estimates of air pollution related deaths and diseases, the Board was particularly concerned that most people in the European Region live in areas with pollution levels exceeding WHO’s air quality guidelines, with an average loss of 9 months’ life expectancy for each citizen. In the framework of the 2013 EU Year of Air, the Board called on the WHO to revise its 2005 air quality guidelines and for the EU to adjust its air quality policy accordingly.

The Board also called on all Member States in the European Region to sign, ratify or accede to key international instruments that directly protect public health, particularly the Protocol on Water and Health, the Convention on Long range Transboundary Air Pollution and the recently negotiated Global Minamata Convention on Mercury.

Originally posted on 10 May 2013

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