According to the World Health Organization (WHO), environmental factors such as air pollution, noise, chemicals and radiation trigger one-quarter of chronic and non- communicable diseases.
To tackle this issue, the EU has modernised chemicals legislation and put in place a broad range of environmental legislation which has resulted in reduced air, water and soil pollution.
The EU also supports research in this field. Since 1998 approximately 330 environment and health research projects have been funded under the Fifth (1998-2002), Sixth (2002-2006) and Seventh Framework Programmes for research (2007–2013). Details on these projects are available. Support continues under Horizon 2020 (2014–2020) – the current EU framework programme for research and innovation.
The current EU health research programme under Horizon 2020 acknowledges the important link between environment and health and so has established two larger initiatives for environment and health.
The European Exposome Cluster
The aim of this cluster, running from 2012 until 2018, is to create a framework to improve our understanding of all the exposures (e.g. pollutants, noise, food ingredients, consumer products, natural or urban environments, etc.) of an individual over their lifetime and the effect this will have on the individual's health. Three large-scale projects: EXPOSOMICS, HELIX and HEALS are part of this cluster.
The European Human Biomonitoring Initiative (HBM4EU)
The objective of this initiative is to create a joint-European programme addressing the exposure of European citizens to chemicals and the potential impact of such exposure on human health. The initiative builds upon the results of the COPHES and DEMOCOPHES projects and brings together national and EU-level research and policy activities.
The expected outcome is strong EU-wide evidence to support sound policy-making whch will contribute to better regulation of the internal market while striking a balance between the interests of industrial competitiveness and of public health.
The initiative started on 1 January 2017 with a foreseen duration of 5 years.
Endocrine disruptors: A strategy for the future that protects EU citizens and the environment
On 7 November 2018, the Commission has adopted a Communication, confirming its commitment to protecting citizens and the environment from hazardous chemicals. The Communication also outlines how the Commission intends to ensure that the EU approach remains the most modern and fit-for-purpose in the world. Endocrine disruptors are chemical substances that alter the functioning of the hormonal system and, as a consequence, negatively affect the health of humans and animals.
The EU has taken strong regulatory action to protect citizens and the environment from endocrine disruptors on the basis of scientific assessments and in line with the different requirements laid down in the relevant legislation. In particular specific provisions on how to address endocrine disruptors are included in the legislation on pesticides and biocides, chemicals in general ("REACH Regulation"), medical devices and water.
- European Union research in support of environment and health: Building scientific evidence base for policy
- Study on the longer-term impact of European Union funding of research in the field of Environment and Health
- European research on environment and health funded by the Seventh Framework Programme (vol.1)
- European research on environment and health funded by the Seventh Framework Programme – Bridging the science-policy gap (Vol.2)
- Improving environment and health in Europe: how far have we gotten? (WHO)
- Increasing Scientific Knowledge and Building a Solid Evidence-Base for Policy Making
- Scientists ramp up monitoring of chemicals in people's bodies