Air pollution by ozone and health
Published (reviewed and quality assured)
Justification for indicator selection
Ozone is a greenhouse gas, but ground level ozone is primarily an air pollutant, which is of high concern in Europe. Concentrations of ground-level ozone are determined by both precursor emissions and meteorological conditions, which also influence the transport of ozone and its precursors between continents. Ground-level ozone is highly reactive and therefore harmful to vegetation, materials and human health. Short-term, high-level exposure can cause breathing problems and lung diseases, trigger asthma, and reduce lung function. The estimated effects of excessive exposure to ozone (exceeding the threshold of 70 μg/m3) include about 20 000 premature deaths , and 14 000 respiratory hospital admissions every year in the EU25, and up to 108 million person-days with minor activity restrictions, respiratory medication use, cough or lower respiratory symptoms. Evidence of chronic effects (asthma and lung development) of long-term exposure to high ozone levels is still limited). There is a scarce evidence that high ozone levels can further increase mortality during heat waves.
- UNECE 2011: Hemispheric Transport of Air Pollution 2010. Part A. Ozone and Particulate Matter HTAP 2010 is the first comprehensive assessment of the state of the science with respect to the intercontinental transport of air pollutants in the Northern Hemisphere. Information on the development and evolution of the assessment can be found on the HTAP wiki at http://htap.icg.fz-juelich.de/data/Assess2010
- WHO 2008: Health Risks of Ozone from Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution Derwent, D.; Forsberg, B.; Amann, M., eBook ISBN: 9289042907 Print ISBN: 9289042893
- Annual mean ozone concentrations by station type
- Modelled change in tropospheric ozone concentrations over Europe
- Selection of meteorological parameters that might increase under future climate change and their impact on ozone levels
- % per decade
Policy context and targets
In April 2009 the European Commission presented a White Paper on the framework for adaptation policies and measures to reduce the European Union's vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. The White Paper stresses the need to improve the knowledge base and to mainstream adaptation into existing and new EU policies. The European Commission will be publishing an EU Adaptation Strategy in 2013. A number of Member States have already taken action, and several have prepared national adaptation plans.
The European Commission and the European Environment Agency have developed the European Climate Adaptation Platform (Climate-ADAPT, http://climate-adapt.eea.europa.eu/) to share knowledge on observed and projected climate change and its impacts on environmental and social systems and on human health; on relevant research; on EU, national and subnational adaptation strategies and plans; and on adaptation case studies.
No targets have been specified.
Related policy documents
Climate-ADAPT: Mainstreaming adaptation in EU sector policies
Overview of EU sector policies in which mainstreaming of adaptation to climate change is ongoing or explored
Climate-ADAPT: National adaptation strategies
Overview of activities of EEA member countries in preparing, developing and implementing adaptation strategies
DG Climate Action: What is the EU doing about climate change?
Activities of the EU regarding climate change (both mitigation and adaptation)
White paper - Adapting to climate change: towards a European framework for action
EU framework for adaptation to climate change, leading to a comprehensive EU adaptation strategy by 2013
Key policy question
What are health effects of ozone exposure across Europe, and how are they changing?
Methodology for indicator calculation
Observations are shown from AirBase (The European air quality database).
A three-dimensional Chemistry Transport Model was used to study the meteorologically induced interannual variability and trends in concentrations of surface ozone over Europe during 1958–2001.
Methodology for gap filling
- Andersson et al. (2007): Interannual variation and trends in air pollution over Europe due to climate variability during 1958–2001 simulated with a regional CTM coupled to the ERA40 reanalysis Tellus B, Vol 59, No 1 (2007), DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0889.2006.00196.x
EEA data references
- AirBase - The European air quality database provided by European Environment Agency (EEA)
External data references
Data sources in latest figures
Data sets uncertainty
Attribution of health effects to climate change is difficult due to the complexity of interactions, and potentially modifying effects of a range of other factors (such as land use changes, public health preparedness, and socio-economic conditions). Criteria for defining a climate-sensitive health impact are not always well identified and their detection sometimes relies on complex statistical or modelling studies (e.g. health impacts of heat waves). Furthermore, these criteria as well as the completeness and reliability of observations may differ between regions and/or institutions, and they may change over time. Data availability and quality is crucial in climate change and human health assessments, both for longer term changes in climate-sensitive health outcomes, and for health impacts of extreme events. The monitoring of climate-sensitive health effects is currently fragmentary and heterogeneous. All these factors make it difficult to identify significant trends in climate-sensitive health outcomes over time, and to compare them across regions. In the absence of reliable time series, more complex approaches are often used to assess the past, current or future impacts of climate change on human health.
Further information on uncertainties is provided in Section 1.7 of the EEA report on Climate change, impacts, and vulnerability in Europe 2012 (http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/climate-impacts-and-vulnerability-2012/)
No uncertainty has been specified
Short term work
Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.
Long term work
Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.
Responsibility and ownership
EEA Contact InfoJohn Van Aardenne
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A – What is happening to the environment and to humans?)