Scientific evidence shows that environmental risks are responsible for a major share of cardiovascular disease, which is the most common cause of death in Europe. A European Environment Agency analysis, published today, provides an overview of the link between environment and cardiovascular disease, highlighting that addressing pollution, extreme temperatures, and other environmental risks are cost-effective actions to reduce the burden of disease, including heart attacks and strokes. 

The EEA assessment ‘Beating cardiovascular disease— the role of Europe’s environment’ gives an overview of the evidence on the environmental determinants of cardiovascular disease in Europe and the corresponding EU policy responses. The analysis shows that reducing exposure to pollution and mitigating and adapting to climate change, as well as fighting energy poverty, can significantly reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease and resulting deaths in Europe. 

Recent studies indicate that at least 18% of all cardiovascular disease deaths in Europe are estimated to be due to key environmental factors, including exposure to air pollution, extreme temperatures, second-hand smoke and lead. The EEA analysis notes, however, that this figure is likely an underestimate as it does not take into account workplace exposure, noise pollution or toxic chemicals other than lead. Moreover, some factors, such as night-time light pollution or the combined effect of exposure to different chemicals, are still poorly understood. 

The EEA analysis highlights that environmental risks are preventable but individual citizens have limited possibilities for protecting themselves. This means that laws and regulations, including those set by the EU, and their effective implementation are needed to reduce the environmental burden of disease for all citizens. Despite some uncertainties and gaps in data, scientific evidence solidly supports reducing environmental exposure as a cost-effective strategy to reduce cardiovascular disease, the EEA analysis concludes. 

The EEA assessment on environment and cardiovascular disease is part of the Agency’s work supporting the implementation and monitoring of the EU zero pollution action plan, which is one of the key initiatives under the European Green Deal

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