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The European Public Health Alliance, the International Society of Doctors for the Environment – Europe, the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Disease Patients Association and the EPHA Environment Network, representatives of the health, environmental health and patient community throughout Europe, sent a letter to European Ministers ahead of the EU Environment Council held in Brussels on 2 December 2005.

The letter describes how European legislation associated with the 6th Enivironmental Action Programme required the Commission to produce a strategy “that considers strict air quality standards to reduce the health burden”. European environment and health ministers themselves made their own commitments to reducing air pollution at a World Health Organisation meeting on Children’s Environment and Health in Hungary in May 2004.

However, the current proposal is likely to result in more lax limits than exist currently – and therefore do nothing to improve air quality in Europe. Most of the health problems associated with outdoor air pollution, such as lower respiratory diseases and asthma, are due to “particulate matter”, especially PM2.5 and PM10. Thirty leading European scientists involved in this field say levels set in the current proposal for PM2.5 are “unprotective” to health and that complicated compliance considerations on PM10 will end up allowing more adverse effects to occur rather than less.

According to the European Federation of Allergy and Airway Diseases Patients’ Association, a co-signatory of the letter, the next 20 years could see the number of asthma sufferers increasing by 50% to 450 million people. “Around 1.5 million people in Europe live in fear of dying from an attack,” according to Ms Susanna Palkonen, EFA Executive Officer.

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