Background information on Air quality

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Air quality is an issue of major concern to European citizens. Since the industrial revolution there has been a significant deterioration in the quality of the air we breathe, mainly as a result of the burning of fossil fuels and the dramatic increase in road traffic. Overwhelming evidence now shows that small particles and ozone are largely responsible for adverse health impacts and excess deaths.

Although EU laws seek to reduce emissions levels of the most hazardous pollutants in outdoor air, air quality in most of Europe’s cities remains far above the designated legal limit values and yet further above the recommended levels of the World Health Organization.

The EU must take further steps to reduce air pollution and ensure that the existing laws to improve air quality are carried out. National governments must also do more to implement existing laws. HEAL calls for the highest possible level of health protection in the EU air quality legislation, as recommended in the World Health Organization’s new Air Quality Guidelines (AQG), to reduce the number of deaths and ill health, paying particular attention to vulnerable groups. This includes informing them when air quality limits are exceeded and the air deteriorates.

Air quality in indoor environments also continue to be of major concern. Europeans spend up to 90% of their time indoors, but politically indoor air quality still needs to be moved up on the agenda. In the last years, knowledge on indoor air pollutants and health impacts has increased because of many EU funded research projects. These research and monitoring insights as well as the latest WHO guideline documents need to be transformed into a coherent, EU harmonised approach on indoor air quality.

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 »


HEAL has over 70 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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