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Environment and health

Safeguarding citizens from environment-related pressures and risks to health is a priority at EU level

Environmental quality across Europe has been steadily improving over recent decades. Nonetheless, environmental health hazards continue to affect European citizens. Air pollution and noise cause diseases and shorten lives. Heatwaves across Europe in recent years have resulted in thousands of fatalities, and cold spells bring on poor health and excess deaths. The burden of environmental disease is unequally distributed across European society.

Europe’s air quality keeps improving and the number of people dying early or suffering illness due to air pollution is in decline. However, according to European Environment Agency’s (EEA) analysis, published today, air pollution is still the largest environmental health risk in Europe, and more ambitious measures are needed to meet the health-based guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Europe’s temperatures are rising more than twice as fast as the global average with more and more extreme heatwaves being recorded. The demand for sustainable cooling in buildings is increasing and, according to a European Environment Agency (EEA) briefing, published today, there is a need for buildings that are energy efficient, use passive cooling solutions and can protect people from heatwaves and contribute to human health and well-being.

Unprecedented heatwaves — as seen this year — are the greatest direct climate-related health threat to Europe’s population. Heatwaves already account for numerous deaths and illnesses. This burden is set to increase without more climate change adaptation and mitigation measures. Heat-health action plans, urban greening, better building design and adjusting working times can contribute to better protect the most vulnerable groups in society, according to a European Environment Agency (EEA) report published today.

Published: 09 Nov 2022

This report draws on knowledge developed for the European Climate and Health Observatory. It focuses on the impact high temperatures are having on the population, as well as another emerging threat: the spread of climate-sensitive infectious diseases.

Published: 23 Sep 2022

Long-term exposure to noise harms physical and mental health. In Europe, the number of people affected by noise from transport is significant, with at least one in five exposed to chronic levels that can cause adverse health effects. Reducing the negative impacts of exposure to transport noise by 30% is a 2030 target under the European Commission's zero pollution plan. This briefing assesses the feasibility of reaching this target based on based on an optimistic and a less ambitious scenario. Results suggest it is unlikely that the target will be met, even with the implementation of substantial number of noise measures.

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