Policy context

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Policy responses to environment-related health issues in Europe at international, regional and national levels are improving. Recent international action plans often focus on children. However, for many health hazards, actions lag well behind policies.

The pan-European region

At the Fourth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health in 2004, the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted the Children's Environment and Health Action Plan for Europe (CEHAPE). WHO also reaffirmed the need for an environment and health information system based on indicators, and formulated recommendations on public health responses to extreme weather events and the health consequences of climate change.

In 2007, the WHO intergovernmental midterm review (IMR) evaluated progress in implementing the commitments of the Fourth Ministerial Conference. The first outputs of the Environment and Health Information System (EHIS) were presented and formed the basis for an assessment of the current status of children's health and the environment in Europe.

In the countries of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe  (UNECE) region, adoption of the Protocol on Water and Health to the 1992 Convention on Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes marked progress in addressing environment and health issues related to water in an integrated manner.

The European Union

Health is one of the priorities of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy. Environmental quality and the link to human health are highlighted in the EU Sixth Environment Action Programme (6EAP).

Four pieces of legislation provide the foundation of the EU’s approach to limiting environmental threats to human health:

  • the Water Framework Directive
  • the Regulation concerning the Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH)
  • the proposal for a directive on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe
  • the proposal for a framework directive on pesticides.


The European Environment and Health Strategy (2003) and the European environment and health action plan 2004–2010 (2004) have four priority diseases:

  • childhood cancer
  • asthma and allergy
  • neurodevelopmental disorders
  • endocrine-disrupting effects.


European processes aiming at the integration of policies are particularly relevant for environment and health.

More information: the European Commission's European Environment and Health Homepage

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