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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.

The cleanest cities in Europe in terms of air quality during 2020 and 2021 were Umeå in Sweden, and Faro and Funchal in Portugal according to the updated European city air quality data viewer published by the European Environment Agency (EEA) today. In addition to the viewer, the EEA also published two reports looking at emissions of air pollutants, targeted by different EU and UNECE requirements.

Climate change affects all Europeans but vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, children, low-income groups and people with health problems or disabilities, are the most affected. One in ten European schools and hospitals may also be at flood risk and about half of those facilities in cities are within intense urban heat islands. A European Environment Agency (EEA) briefing, published today, looks at these inequalities and how to address them through equitable climate change adaptation.

Exposure to air pollution, second-hand smoke, radon, ultraviolet radiation, asbestos, certain chemicals and other pollutants causes over 10% of all cancer cases in Europe, according to a European Environment Agency (EEA) report published today. The good news is that these risks are preventable.

Published: 28 Jun 2022

Cancer affects the lives of many Europeans. Environmental and occupational exposure to air pollution, radon, UV radiation, chemical carcinogens, asbestos and other risks contributes significantly to the high burden of cancer in Europe.

Published: 20 Jan 2022

This briefing belongs to a series called ‘Narratives for Change’, which explores the diversity of ideas needed to move our society towards sustainability and fulfil the ambitions of the European Green Deal. The briefing reflects on the lessons learned from COVID-19, asking how these lessons can be applied to our quest for sustainability, and how we can achieve a model of societal governance that respects planetary health as the pre-condition for human and economic health.

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