Air pollution is a significant public health issue, a largely-preventable, pandemic-level health event, allowed to continue each and every day in Europe and around the world. Poor air quality is the most significant environmental risk factor that Europeans suffer. Among a range of health effects, poor air quality leads to premature mortality, with more than 300,000 people in Europe estimated to die every year. Evidence continues to mount for the effects of bad air quality, both in the outside environments, and within our indoor environments, above the effects indicated in the 2021 update of the World Health Organization Guidelines.
Luckily, Europe has a greener, cleaner future in mind. Actions and policies towards carbon emission reduction and zero pollution by 2050 have seen a raft of policy updates which are aimed at, and will, benefit air quality. The Ambient Air Quality Directives, the Euro 7 and CO2 Vehicle Emissions Standards, the Ten-T Framework, the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, all could drastically impact the quality of European air[CP1] if implemented well and with ambition and health in mind, so that the worrying level of health impact that breathing degraded air causes can be reduced.
EPHA and partners have been working in a number of sectors where intervention will lead to cleaner air, better health and more sustainable futures. EPHA and partners like the European Respiratory Society have been working for a high-ambition Ambient Air Quality Directive to be put in place by the EU that fully aligns with the latest WHO recommendations. EPHA and Italian Association of Doctors for the Environment have been raising awareness about the effects of gas cooking, with evidence highlighting that the switch to electric cooking will improve air quality in homes, and reduce health impacts, especially on children. EPHA and the Polish Society for Health Programs have been advocating for clean transport interventions and smart mobility strategies, so that people can access movement in a way that benefits both health and environment, with a focus on equity and sustainability.
Advocating for the provision of clean air is an important part of EPHA’s work. There is so much to gain, and so much morbidity and mortality that could be prevented from interventions to better air quality. The co-benefits for health and environment are dramatic and will benefit all. We don’t do this alone though, we work with a diverse network of members, partners, organisations and stakeholders. Together, we can move towards a cleaner, healthier future where people are protected from breathing bad air.