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AIM calls on the EU to act on air quality

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Brussels, 18 November 2014 - Mutual Benefit Societies want stronger action on air quality to boost public health.

The International Association of Mutual Benefit Societies (AIM) has launched the Bruges Declaration (1) in June 2014, which calls on the EU to demand stronger commitments on the main sources of air pollution, such as transport and industry. AIM believes that the standards should be raised to meet health-based recommendations made by the World Health Organization (WHO).

AIM is the worldwide umbrella organisation of health mutuals and health insurance funds. It brings together 59 member organisations from 27 countries, representing 230 million people worldwide, including 160 million in Europe.

President Christian Zahn says that policy change to improve air quality is the rising star in effective public health promotion today.

“The European Union should be ensuring that all countries take advantage of what is one of the most cost-effective health prevention measures,” he says. “Not to take action means much higher costs for people’s health and for health insurers and governments in terms of health bills for medication, hospitalisation and work days lost.”

Geert Messiaen, Secretary General of Liberal Mutual Benefit Societies (Landsbond van Liberale Mutualiteiten (LLM)) and chair of the AIM working group on environmental diseases, says:

“Although air quality had improved over the years, it is still preventing many people from living healthy lives, especially those with existing breathing and heart problems or children with asthma. For example, living near a busy road may be responsible for as much as one in seven cases of child asthma. As research increases so does the list of diseases linked to exposure to air pollution, including lung cancer and diabetes. We aim to make Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and other policy makers aware of this opportunity for improving public health.” (2)

Michiel Callens, Director of Research & Development at the National Union of Christian Mutualities and Chair of the Belgian intermutualist working group environmental diseases adds:

“Air pollution is of particular concern not only in Belgium, but in the whole of Europe, as airborne pollution knows no borders. It is now the 11th biggest contributor to overall health burden of Europe. (3). The World Health Organization has sent a wake-up call to decision-makers, highlighting that health effects occur at lower concentration levels, and that the range of effects is broader than previously thought. The science base for strong EU action is clear.”

The European Union’s clean air package was launched in December 2013 and is currently being negotiated in the European Parliament and Council. The health-related costs to society from exposure to outdoor air pollution in the EU were estimated at the time to be in the range of €330-940 billion per year (3-9% of the EU’s GDP).

The then Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik said that the proposed actions would halve the number of premature deaths resulting from exposure to air pollution, and that the benefits for health were 12 times as high as costs. (4)

Partnership with HEAL

AIM is a member of the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) with whom it launched a strategic partnership to improve prevention of chronic diseases caused, or facilitated, by environmental factors in 2011. (5)

Anne Stauffer, Deputy Director, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) says: “AIM is a very powerful HEAL member. We hope they can help ensure European politicians continue to give priority to protecting people’s health by strengthening, not weakening key legislation on air.”

She adds: “EU Commission President Juncker and First Vice-President Timmermans are currently considering whether or not to withdraw the Clean Air Package. The proposal now with the EP and the Member States was launched after three years of intensive stakeholder exchange and a comprehensive impact assessment, and after delays. The European Parliament and Council should oppose any withdrawal and instead go forward swiftly, because every day, citizens suffer more ill-health due to poor air quality.” (6)

The Bruges Declaration calls for more ambitious and binding commitments for emissions reductions for the years 2020, 2025, 2030 (under the National Emissions Ceilings Directive) as well as for EU air quality standards to be aligned with the health-based recommendations made by World Health Organization (WHO).(1)



1. The Bruges Declaration is available here: The declaration was adopted at the AIM general assembly in June 2014.

2. Recent findings on health and air quality

3. Air pollution ranked as top health risk factor, 14 December 2013

4. Environment: New policy package to clean up Europe’s air, European Commission press release, 18 December 2013,

5. Health insurers tackle environmental causes of disease, HEAL press release, 20 June 2011,

6. Environment commissioner to review nature laws, ENDS Europe, 10 September 2014


Anne Stauffer, Deputy Director, HEAL, Tel: +32 2 234 36 43, Email:

Diana Smith, Communications and Media Adviser, Health & Environment Alliance (HEAL), Email:, Mobile: +33 6 33 04 2943

Jessica Carreno Louro, Junior Project Manager, AIM, Tel: +32 2 234 57 05, Email:

The Association Internationale de la Mutualité (AIM) is a grouping of autonomous health insurance and social protection bodies operating according to the principles of solidarity and non-profit-making orientation. Currently, AIM’s membership consists of 59 national federations representing 27 countries. They provide social coverage against sickness and other risks to more than 200 million people worldwide. AIM strives via its network to make an active contribution to the preservation and improvement of access to health care for everyone. More info: Follow AIM on Twitter @AIM_Healthcare

Last updated on 17 December 2014

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