Commission wants to protect children from environmental pollution

Worried about the increasing health effects of environmental pollution, the Commission adopted a Communication outlining a European strategy for Environment and Health on 11 June.

The Strategy for Environment and Health was designed jointly by three Directorate-Generals: Environment (Wallström), Research (Busquin) and Health (Byrne). The strategy (with the acronym “SCALE”) is based on 5 key elements:

  • it will be based onscienceand look at the complex interactions between different pollutants and the body;
  • it will focus onchildren: the Commission will launch pilot actions on pollutants with specific relevance to children, such as dioxins, heavy metals and endocrine disruptors;
  • it wants to raiseawarenessfrom stakeholders and the general public;
  • EU legislationwill complement national laws and be reviewed to reflect children’s special situation and needs;
  • actions taken will be constantlyevaluated.

 

TheEuropean Public Health Alliancetold EURACTIV that it welcomes the new strategy: "This is the first time that protection of health has been fully integrated in the other policy areas of environment and research. The Strategy will involve pilot monitoring activities to track pollutants from the environment into the food chain and human beings. Gaps in scientific knowledge will be identified and filled. Lack of evidence will no longer be an excuse for inaction on our environmental health".

 

There is a growing problem of illnesses linked to our environment. Air pollution, noise, chemicals, electromagnetic fields etc. lead to health problems such as allergies, asthma, respiratory illnesses, development disorders and cancer. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the prevalence of asthma has increased by 200 per cent between the 1970s and the 1990s. Children, as one of the most vulnerable groups in society, are more and more affected by these health effects of environmental activities. Chemicals that are harmless for adults, may bring permanent damage to the developing bodies of children. Nevertheless, all environment legislation is based on adult standards and norms. Furthermore, there is a serious lack of data on the effects chemicals in the environment have on children.

 

  • The Commission will outline the action details of this strategy after consultations with stakeholders. A first meeting with health and environment stakeholders will take place in Brussels on 11 July. In the autumn of 2003, working groups will be set up and they will participate in three regional conferences (in Brussels, Italy and Poland).
  • The Commission will adopt an Action Plan 2004-2010 in Spring 2004. It will be presented to the Inter-Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health in Budapest in June 2004.

 

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