The Commission has unveiled its 2004-2010 action plan to reduce
illnesses linked to environmental pollution. European Greens have
come out angrily against it, saying the Commission has bowed to
pressure from industry.
Heightened concerns that illnesses such as cancer or asthma are
closely linked to pollution were the driving forces behind the
Commission’s new Environment and Health Action Plan 2004-2010.
For instance, the European Environment Agency (EEA) estimates
that, in large European cities, an annual 60,000 premature deaths
are caused by long-term exposure to air pollution (between six and
nine thousand for France alone according to the French Agency for
Environmental Health and Safety). And the “dramatic” increase in
asthma and allergies over the past 50 years are attributed by the
EEA to changes in environmental pollution. Still according to the
same source, a further 10 million people in Europe are exposed to
environmental noise levels that can result in hearing loss.
Published by the Commission on 9 June, the plan comprises 13
action points aimed at improving the coordination between the
health, environment, and research sectors. The actions are divided
into the three following areas:
Monitoring: Developing indicators to measure
the link between environment and health and understand the routes
pollutants take from their source to the human body. This would for
example include ‘biomonitoring’ (taking regular samples of blood,
urine or hair) to measure human exposure to environmental
Research: Focusing research on four priority
diseases (asthma/allergy, neuro developmental disorders, cancers
and endocrine disrupting effects) to ‘fill the knowledge gap’
Communication: Developing citizen’s awareness
to help them make informed health choices. Other actions include
training to health professionals to make sure they are alert about
environment and health interactions.