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Sound and independent information
on the environment

Environment and health

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Key messages
  • Major environment-related health concerns in the pan-European region continue to be linked to poor air and water quality, hazardous chemicals, and noise. These are often interconnected through common driving forces or pressures.

  • The burden of ill health attributable to environmental causes is much higher in EECCA and SEE than in WCE. One reason for this is the coexistence and combination of 'traditional' (e.g. unsafe water and sanitation) and 'modern' (e.g. urban air pollution, chemicals) hazards.

  • Responses to environment-related health challenges in Europe at the international, regional and national level are improving. International action plans focus on children's health and reducing the burden of environment-related health problems in this vulnerable group.  However, for many health hazards, actions lag well behind policies.

  • The health toll of natural disasters such as violent storms, floods, heatwaves, landslides and droughts is being exacerbated by urbanisation, deforestation and climate change, and lack of preparedness.

  • Although cause and effect relationships are hard to establish, there appear to be a number of associations between outdoor and indoor air pollution, water and soil contamination, hazardous chemicals and noise and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, cancer, asthma, allergies, as well as disorders of reproductive and neuro-developmental systems.

  • There is growing concern about adverse impacts of exposures to low levels of chemicals, often in complex mixtures. Several adult diseases are suggested to be linked to exposure in very early childhood or exposure of parents before conception. Persistent chemicals with long-term effects, and those used in long-life articles, may present risks even after their production as been phased out.

  • Human health impacts of soil degradation across Europe are currently difficult to estimate. Efforts to achieve the sustainable use of soil will also have positive impacts on human health and quality of life.

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European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100