Local authorities, health and environment
about this publication
A publication jointly prepared by:

WHO/EURO Home page and The EEA homepage

The authors
Legal notice
Table of contents Table of contents
Case studies and tables Case studies and tables
Beginning of text Start reading from the beginning of the text

For further information on pamphlets local authorities, click here

Top of page Foreword
Air quality is an issue of critical importance for both health and environment. In 1997, the European Environment Agency published Air pollution in Europe, a summary of the sources and emissions of major air pollutants. Ten years earlier, the WHO Regional Office for Europe published the first Air quality guidelines for Europe.

Collaboration between the two institutions on this subject was natural. This pamphlet on air and health will help promote better understanding of air quality and its impact on human health. It provides a simple yet comprehensive introduction to the illnesses induced mainly by air pollutants and briefly describes their sources.

It also makes three recommendations drafted by the WHO Regional Office for Europe, which, when implemented, will substantially improve the local environment and the quality of life of European citizens.

The European Environment Agency's mission is to provide timely, relevant and reliable information to support all those who strive for a more sustainable and healthy environment. This pamphlet is written for the many professionals in local authorities in a wide range of disciplines, who help make our cities, schools and working places safer and more pleasant to be in. If this co-operative effort encourages local authorities to take fully - informed decisions on air pollution, it will have been successful.

The WHO Regional Office for Europe and the European Environment Agency will co-operate again in 1997 to produce a follow-up pamphlet on air quality monitoring, networks and technologies.

All those who have contributed to this work have performed a difficult and challenging task. This contribution is fully acknowledged and both of us should like to express our gratitude for their commitment and willingness to work together.

Achieving safe, clean air throughout Europe will be difficult: joining forces will ease the process.

Dr Jo. E Asvall
Regional Director
WHO Regional Office for Europe
Mr Domingo Jimenez-Beltrán
Executive Director
European Environment Agency
Top of page Preface
This pamphlet deals with common air pollutants, and their health effects. It provides basic health - related information which will help decision-makers at the local level, on air quality management. The focus is on health but as air pollution and some of its causes such as transport contribute to building damage and agricultural or habitat losses, these impacts will also be discussed briefly. It will be followed by several other pamphlets in the same series which will provide more details on the problems of air pollution and on solutions for local authorities.

In this series, the recommendations are ranked by priorities, so that strategies can be developed which are appropriate to the local context.

marks the recommendations that must be put into effect in order to ensure a safe and clean environment. All local authorities have a duty to tackle these tasks immediately.

identifies the recommendations that will yield marked improvements in people's health and should be regarded as priority actions.
marks the recommendations that will, if they are implemented, substantially improve the local environment. Everyone's quality of life will benefit from these.

The unranked recommendations are designed to help you draw up strategies at local level and will not, in general, have a direct effect on health.

Click here if you want to read the recommendations now

Xavier Bonnefoy, Paolo G. Meozzi, Project coordinators.
Monet Thames
Top of page Summary

"The air we receive at our birth and resign only when we die is the first necessity of our existence."
The Times, London, 17 February 1881

This pamphlet provides an overview of the main air pollutants, their sources, their main effects on health and the global environment, and what can be done to reduce them.
During the Industrial Revolution, air pollution was an inevitable accompaniment of economic development, causing bronchitis and other respiratory diseases.
During the last 40 years or so many countries have introduced laws to control air pollution from all sources. WHO estimates, however, that about 1.6 billion people world-wide are still exposed to air which is polluted.
In several parts of the world combustion for domestic heating is still an important source of air pollution, but in most European countries, industrial emissions and traffic are now the major sources of concern.
Local authorities therefore have an important role to play in reducing air pollution, encouraging the adoption of precautionary health measures and disseminating information on better practices and technologies for achieving air quality objectives.
Further pamphlets in this series will provide more detail on all these subjects, and particularly on actions that can be taken at local level.
Top of page The authors
Dr Robert Maynard

is a Senior Medical Officer at the Department of Health where he is the Head of the Air Quality Science Unit in the Division of Health Aspects of the Environment and Food. He has worked in respiratory pathology and physiology for almost 20 years and has published papers on lung injury and inhalation toxicology.

David GeeMr David Gee

works at the European Environment Agency, Copenhagen , on information strategy and implementation. Over the last 25 years he has worked on occupational and environmental risk reduction, and has written many publications on chemicals, radiation, asbestos, traffic fumes and scientific uncertainty.

Top of page Legal notice

© World Health Organization 1997

All rights in this document are reserved by the WHO regional Office for Europe. The document may be freely reviewed or abstracted provided due acknowledgement is made to the source. The Regional Office encourages the translation of this document, but permission must be sought first. Anyone interested in producing a translated version of this document should therefore contact WHO Regional Office for Europe, Scherfigsvej 8, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark to discuss their plans. Any views expressed by named authors are solely the responsibility of those authors.

Top of page Acknowledgments

The following people must be thanked for their collaboration to the development of this document:
Dr Philippe Bourdeau, Chair of the Scientific Committee of the EEA, Dr David Stanners, EEA, Mr Gordon McInnes, EEA, Copenhagen, Danmark; Mr R. Bouscaren, CITEPA, France; Dr Michael Krzyzanowski and Dr Rolaf Van Leuwen, WHO European Centre for Environment and Health, Bilthoven, Netherlands; Pr William Dab, ENSP, Rennes, France; Dr Julius Ptashekas, Vilnius, Lithuania; Dr G Kamizoulis, WHO Mediterranean Action Plan, Athens, Pr Anthony Seaton, University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom; Dr D. Schwela, WHO, Geneva, Switzerland; Dr John G. Ayres, Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, United Kingdom; Dr Vladimira Vadjic, Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health, Zagreb, Croatia; Dr Medina, ERPURS, France; Dr Christina Schatzl, European Commission, DG V, Luxembourg; Dr Canice Nolan, European Commission, DG XII, D/1, Brussels, Belgium; for their contribution to this document.

Photo credit:
Musée d'Orsay, RMN, H. Lewandowski, Paris; The Guardian; David Rose, London; Agence Pix, Paris; Agence Explorer, P. Rouchon, Paris; Greenways waste management, London.

Editor: Mrs Loveday Murley, National Society for Clean Air and Environmental Protection.
Front cover: Mr Roger Laüt.
Design and lay-out: Mr Pierre Finot.

This Web document has been prepared by Mr Emmanuel Briand (WHO-EURO)


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