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| Risk assessment and Health

Relevance of research

The environment can have an important effect on health. The influence of the environment on human health is complex and, while some interactions are well known, providing clear links between health effects and some individual environmental risk factors, others are still largely unknown. The interaction between the environment and health seems far more complex than is commonly understood.

Although many environmental problems have already been solved, much remains to be done. In fact, there are a growing number of health problems which have been associated with environmental pollution, such as the effect of endocrine disrupting compounds on wildlife and human health. In order to help policy-makers by providing more accurate information about risks related to different kinds of environmental factors, European research is initiated on risk assessment and health issues within the Commission’s Framework Programmes for Research. The aim of the research in this area is to improve our understanding about environmental threats, and the risks they pose to human health. In addition, improved assessment methods are needed to be able to estimate the possible cumulative risks of several contributing factors.

Aims of EU-funded research on risk assessment and health

The objective of EU-funded research in this area is to focus on developing advanced methods for assessing the risk of processes, technologies, measures and policies. It also aims to assess environmental quality, which includes producing reliable indicators of population health, environmental conditions and the evaluation of risk in relation to outdoor and indoor exposure to various pollutants. Relevant pre-normative research on measurements and testing for these purposes is a focus as well.

Climate change, the contamination of soil and water resources, air pollution and other forms of environmental damage have consequences not only on ecosystems but also directly or indirectly on human health. Research addresses climate change-driven environmental shifts likely to affect human health. Moreover, research tackles broad aspects of environmental quality, damage assessment and environmental liability considering the related policy aspects in the EU.

Theses actions provide improved environmental monitoring and early warning tools, integrated measurement systems and validated standardised methods.

Latest News on Risk assessment and Health


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The following are some examples of research projects funded by the European Union’s Fifth and Sixth Framework Programmes for research, which aim to improve scientific understanding of risk assessment and health.

This project, funded under the EU’s Fifth Framework Programme, was completed in 2004. It addressed the important issue of pharmaceutical residues released into the environment through waste treatment processes. The project also investigated the efficiency of wastewater technologies and drinking water technologies in removing these compounds and reducing the contamination of waters.

This Fifth Framework Programme initiative is one of four projects in the CREDO-Cluster. The project will help to develop an understanding of the potential health problems posed by endocrine disrupting compounds to wildlife and humans. The project organised a CREDO-workshop on ‘Ecological relevance of chemically induced endocrine disruption in wildlife’, held in July 2004, Exeter (UK).

The ESPREME project, which stands for ‘Estimation of willingness-to-pay to reduce risks of exposure to heavy metals and cost-benefit analysis for reducing heavy metal occurrence in Europe’, is funded under the Sixth Framework Programme for research. High concentrations of heavy metals in the environment – air, water and soil – are a cause of major concern, as they can have significant harmful effects on ecosystems and human health. This three-year project, launched in January 2004, aims to develop methods and tools to support European environmental policy-making in reducing the harmful impacts of heavy metals.