People in Europe are living longer and healthier lives than in the past due to the successful implementation of environmental policies according to a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the European Commission’s Joint Research Council. However, the ‘Environment and Human Health’ report also stresses that harmful contaminants in air, water and food are still a problem, and that new health risks are emerging from chemicals, new products and changing lifestyle patterns. Read more…
The report is a follow-up to an earlier EEA publication, ‘European environment — state and outlook 2010’ which showed that environmental policies have driven substantial improvements in the European environment. Challenges, however, still remain. The report says that people are exposed to multiple environmental factors throughout their lives, and that more research is needed to understand the impacts, especially for the most vulnerable in society. It urges science to move away from focusing on individual hazards and look instead at the complex, combined effects that environmental and lifestyle factors are having on health.
The report points out that global sales of chemicals doubled between 2000 and 2009 and there is growing concern about the effects of ‘endocrine disrupting chemicals’ found in products such as medicines, pesticides and cosmetics. It’s thought these may be contributing to declining sperm counts, impaired neural development, obesity and cancer. The report says that air pollution is contributing to cancer, heart disease, bronchitis and asthma, and is estimated to be reducing each EU citizen's life expectancy by an average of 8.5 months.
Other key findings suggest that noise can seriously harm health, affecting cognitive development, cardiovascular disease and sleep. Devices emitting electro-magnetic fields,such as mobile phones, are considered a possible cancer risk, although this has not been scientifically proven. Nanotechnology is also said to be an emerging risk as little is known about the effects of nanomaterials in the human body.
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