Asset Publisher
javax.portlet.title.customblogportlet_WAR_customblogportlet (Health is Global Blog)

"The New Air Quality Values Proposed by the European Commission Put Economic Interests Above People’s Health"

Photo: Conte di Cavour, Wikimedia commons - Milan skyline

The European Commission has just presented a proposal for a new directive on air pollution. The proposed new annual limit values of 10 µg/m3 for PM2.5 and 20 µg/m3 for NO2 across the EU by 2030 will provide important benefits to public health. However, they fall way short of the latest Air Quality Guidelines by the WHO, limiting annual mean concentrations to 5 µg/m3 for PM2.5 and 10 µg/m3 for NO2 – values based on scientific and health evidence. Adopting the WHO guidelines could prevent around 166 000 deaths in our European cities. Alas, the EU values do not follow the science- they not only prioritize economic interests over people´s health, but the plan also fails to include a clear path towards achieving them. 

Impact on health   

Air pollution remains one of the most important causes of disease and death worldwide. In Europe, the burden of disease caused by air pollution remains unacceptably high. The health effects of air pollution include, but are not limited to, cardio and respiratory disease, cancer, and effects on the brain and birth outcomes.  

In Europe, the burden of disease caused by air pollution remains unacceptably high.

The foetus and young children are particularly vulnerable to air pollution, which leads to pre-term birth, low birthweight, stillbirth, childhood asthma, and obesity. and a reduction in cognitive development and school performance, among others.  In the European Union alone, air pollution causes 200,000 new cases of childhood asthma each year, which represents around one-third of all new cases of childhood asthma.

We need to do much more to protect the future generations.

Cities, but not only

More than one hundred cities in the EU exceed even the current EU guidelines. We need to do much more to protect the future generations and to improve enforcement of the guidelines so that everyone can breathe a cleaner air.

Significant sources of air pollution are, for example, motorized traffic, residential heating, indoor burning of wood and other organic material, ports (shipping), airports and industry.  We urgently need to shift private motorised traffic in cities towards public and active transportation, replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, and provide more green space to name a few measures. In addition, Euro 7 emission standards of vehicles should be more ambitious.

But it is not only the cities. The agricultural sector, for example, contributes significantly to air pollution nowadays.  Efforts should be made to reduce the air pollution emissions by changing agricultural practices.

There has never been a better time to shift away from our fossil fuel addiction.

Now is when

Perhaps there has never been a better time to reduce air pollution levels. Both the climate crisis and the conflict in Ukraine demand drastic changes to our society and a shift away from our fossil fuel addiction. Many of the measures to achieve this shift will reduce air pollution. Stricter air pollution guidelines will also promote more and faster innovation as well as a greener economy. 

Let´s use this opportunity to make maximum progress towards a healthier, cleaner air for all.