Health groups call on the leaders of the Western Balkan countries to harmonize national air quality standards with the World Health Organization Global air quality guidelines. Health experts should be actively involved in these decision-making processes to ensure the timely integration of public health measures into environmental policies. Compliance with WHO recommendations brings multiple benefits – reduced incidence of chronic diseases and premature deaths, reduced overall health costs and, most importantly, better health and higher productivity of people.
The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is calling on city authorities to clean up the air in Europe as part of the “Unmask my City” campaign launched today on World Asthma Day 2017. Unmask My City (1) is a global initiative by doctors, nurses, public health practitioners, and allied healthcare professionals dedicated to improving air quality and reducing emissions in our cities. It calls for all cities to meet the World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines (2) and to adopt policies and programmes that will put cities on a path towards meeting this objective.
HEAL is leading the campaign in Europe.
“Air pollution remains a serious health risk in Europe. Ninety per cent of the urban population is exposed to levels considered harmful to health by the World Health Organization,” says Roberta Savli, Deputy Director at HEAL. “We have the solutions – such as replacing coal with renewable power sources. The challenge is to create the political will to rapidly implement them for better health and to mitigate climate change.”
Coal-powered electricity generation is responsible for 18,600 premature deaths in the European Union. (3) Other solutions, including alternative transport fuels, switching freight to trains, providing cleaner fuels for home heating, and better infrastructure and urban planning to support active travel policies, will improve people’s health and reduce global warming simultaneously.
HEAL is supported in Europe by the Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME), International Association of Mutual Benefit Societies (AIM), European Respiratory Society (ERS), European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI), European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients’ Associations (EFA), European Lung Foundation (ELF), and the International Primary Care Respiratory Group (IPCRG).
In Poland, Serbia and Turkey, HEAL is working with local staff and national health professionals to promote solutions tailored to the sources of air pollution most impacting each city, and the regulatory, policy or other solutions best suited to create positive change in air quality. A key feature of the campaign is the creation of visual communication materials showing people in different cities using a ‘light mask,’ a face mask equipped with LED indicators to monitor air quality. When air quality is good and PM2.5 levels are low, the mask lights up green; when air quality is bad and levels are high, the mask turns red.
Following the launch today, European city campaigns are being rolled out in Warsaw, Poland (13 May), in Adana, Istanbul and Hatay, Turkey (15 May); in Belgrade, Serbia (4 May) and in London by UK Health Alliance for Climate Change. Other launches include Salt Lake City, US; Chennai and Ahmedabad, India; Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Air pollution in Europe is responsible for around 467,000 premature deaths in Europe every year. (5) Three quarters of the European Union’s population lives in urban areas and this percentage will increase to 80% by 2020. Cleaner air will save lives, improve health, and make a huge contribution to greenhouse gas reductions needed to keep the world safe from climate change crises.
HEAL represents the non-governmental sector in the European Environment and Health Process coordinated by the World Health Organization. The Sixth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health will take place 13-15 June 2017 in Ostrava, Czech Republic.
HEAL gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the European Union (EU). The responsibility for content lies with the authors and the views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the EU institutions and funders. The Executive Agency for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (EASME) and the funders are not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained here. HEAL EU transparency register number: 00723343929-96
HEAL gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the European Union (EU). The responsibility for the content lies with the authors and the views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the EU institutions and funders. The Executive Agency for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (EASME) and the funders are not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained in this publication. HEAL EU transparency register number: 00723343929-96