The European Commission
has launched an action plan to reduce diseases caused by a polluted environment. The plan would develop an EU system integrating information on the state of the environment, the ecosystem and human health. It identifies 13 actions, which include initiatives on how to better understand the environment-health link and establish how environmental exposure leads to epidemiological effects. It also focuses on research activities, for instance on asthma/allergy, neuro-developmental disorders, cancers and endocrine disrupting effects. It calls for awareness-raising on risks affecting the citizen, and training of professionals in environment and health issues. It also looks at the feasibility of human biomonitoring at European level, i.e. monitoring of blood, urine or hair samples to measure exposure to environmental pollutants. The Action Plan is the Commission’s main contribution to the Fourth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health of the World Health Organisation (WHO) taking place in Budapest on 23-25 June 2004. The Conference is dedicated to “The Future of our Children”.
Margot Wallström, Commissioner for the Environment, said: "Europe’s citizens expect policy makers to act. As individuals we can make certain choices about our lifestyles which affect our health, but we cannot select the quality of air we breathe or always protect ourselves from exposure to pollutants that may build up in our bodies – sometimes even before we are born. The proposed Action Plan is a significant step forward.‘’
David Byrne, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection said: " Our health is our wealth – and a clearer understanding of the overall environmental impact on human health will be welcomed by citizens. Our Environment and Health action plan is science-based and the follow-up process transparent so that all stakeholders can play a full part in the debate.” Commissioner Pavel Telicka added: “Protecting the health of our children from a deteriorating environment is a long-term priority. The new Commission will continue to take the lead in the action for children together with the WHO.”
European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin added: “To prevent environment-related disease it is essential to understand and quantify the underlying causes and related risk factors. To achieve this goal, a challenging approach for European research has been outlined in the Action Plan. This array of research actions is expected to lead to a much deeper understanding of environmental health risks.”
Key elements of the Action Plan
The plan, which covers the period 2004-2010, involves setting up a system that will better equip the Commission to act. This requires systematic and improved co-operation between health, environment and research sectors on a scale not achieved before. The plan focuses on:
- better understanding the environment-health link and establishing how environmental exposure leads to epidemiological effects. Measures include monitoring of health indicators, the environment and the different routes through which people are exposed
- strengthening European research activities, including the four priority diseases identified: asthma/allergy, neuro-developmental disorders, cancers and endocrine disrupting effects. It will also address emerging issues such as the effect of climate change on health.
- drawing conclusions from the improved information allowing us to review and adjust risk reduction policy, and improve communication.
See “Questions and Answers on the Action Plan”, MEMO/04/143