Environment and health
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A clean environment is essential for human health and well-being. However, the interactions between the environment and human health are highly complex and difficult to assess. This makes the use of the precautionary principle particularly useful. The best-known health impacts are related to ambient air pollution, poor water quality and insufficient sanitation. More
- Key facts and messages
- Environment, health and quality of life — Water and air pollution have declined but not enough to achieve good ecological quality in all water bodies or to ensure good air quality in all urban areas. Widespread exposure to multiple pollutants... more
- Europe’s freshwaters contain a number of pollutants including nutrients, metals, pesticides, pathogenic micro-organisms, industrial chemicals and pharmaceuticals. These can have adverse effects on aquatic ecosystems, degrading habitats and... more
- Air pollution damages human health and the environment. Considerable progress has been made in Europe to reduce emissions and exposure to different air pollutants such as sulphur dioxide (SO2) and lead (Pb). However, despite reductions, certain... more
- European air pollutant concentrations still frequently exceed limit values set by the EU Air Quality Directives. Many Member States have either not complied, or will not comply by the required target dates, with legally-binding air quality limits... more
- As European emissions decrease, there is increasing recognition of the importance of inter-continental transport of air pollutants and its contribution to poor air quality in Europe. This contribution is particularly large for ozone, persistent... more
- Despite substantial reductions in some urban air pollutants, data for the period 1997 to 2008 show that for any given year up to 40 to 60 % of urban citizens can be exposed to concentrations of either particulate matter or ozone above the EU... more
- 11 countries exceeded the 2010 'ceilings' for the four important air pollutants regulated under the LRTAP Protocol: NOx, NMVOC, SOx and NH. These pollutants can lead to breathing problems, acid rain and eutrophication. more
- Every 10% increase in green space is associated with a reduction in diseases equivalent to an increase of five years of life expectancy. more
- Over one year a mature tree will take up about 22 kilograms of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and in exchange release oxygen. Each year, 1.3 million trees are estimated to remove more than 2500 tonnes of pollutants from the air. more
- Modelling studies for urban temperatures over the next 70 years project that in urban areas where the green cover is reduced by 10 %, urban temperatures could increase by 8.2 °C above current levels. more
- In 2008, ten of 12 waterborne disease outbreaks reported in the EU were linked to the contamination of private wells. more
- Exposure to ground-level ozone concentrations above critical health levels is associated with more than 20 000 premature deaths in the EU-25 annually. more
Volunteers across Europe will pick up litter on Saturday 10 May, as part of a coordinated EU Clean Up Day. The event is particularly timely, as there are growing concerns that rubbish polluting Europe's land and sea harms wildlife and may ultimately affect human health.
At least 110 million people are adversely affected by noise from Europe’s busiest roads alone. People need to escape this pollution and access quiet places to work, relax and live a healthy life. Such ‘quiet areas’ should be protected under EU legislation, but how does this work in practice?
High pollutant levels currently experienced in parts of France, Belgium and Germany are leading some areas to take urgent action to lower air pollution – for example, public transport is free in Paris over the weekend as an incentive for people to avoid car use.
Ground-level ozone exceeded legal limits in every Member State and at many individual measurement sites during summer 2013, according to the European Environment Agency's annual report on this harmful pollutant. Although the number of exceedances is high, they have decreased over recent decades, the report notes.
In 2013 Europe’s air was a central theme of work at the European Environment Agency (EEA), with several assessments looking at issues related to the gases, liquid droplets and solid particles polluting the atmosphere in many parts of Europe.
Black carbon is an air pollutant which harms human health and can contribute to climate change – so cutting emissions may have many benefits. The European Environment Agency (EEA) has published a report on the measurement of black carbon in the air.
Around 90 % of city dwellers in the European Union (EU) are exposed to one of the most damaging air pollutants at levels deemed harmful to health by the World Health Organisation (WHO). This result comes from the latest assessment of air quality in Europe, published by the European Environment Agency (EEA).
Unusually high temperatures this summer may be contributing to poor air quality in many European cities. Thresholds to protect health from ground-level ozone have been exceeded across Europe in recent weeks, according to preliminary data reported to the European Environment Agency (EEA).