Blowing the winds of change into European air policy
The EU has been tackling air pollution since the 1970s. Steps like controlling emissions of harmful substances into the atmosphere and improving fuel quality have contributed to progress in this area, but the problem still remains. This is mainly as a result of human activities: the burning of fossil fuels and the dramatic rise in traffic on the roads, for instance. As a consequence, air pollution is cited as the main cause of lung conditions such as asthma (there are twice as many sufferers today compared to 30 years ago), and as the cause of over 350 000 premature deaths in the EU every year. Now the European Commission is adopting a new strategy with new proposals on improving air quality across Europe.
The plan is to highlight the importance of clean air for all and to focus on actions to improve air quality across the EU. Already the European Commission has formed a collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe. They will review the latest health science on major air pollutants such as particulate matter, ground-level ozone, and nitrogen dioxide. Their findings will be presented at an event this month titled 'Understanding the health effects of air pollution: recent advances to inform EU policies'.
Participants will present the latest findings on the health effects of air pollution and the latest evidence for adverse respiratory and cardiovascular health effects, and identify specific sizes, sources or constituents of particulate matter (such as traffic, black carbon, fine and ultrafine particles, and diesel exhaust) associated with adverse health effects. The event will also summarise how science has advanced our understanding of the issue, as well as spotlight the uncertainties, and identify key areas for further research.
The European Commission is also asking EU citizens what they would do to improve air quality in Europe. This novel idea encourages suggestions for an improved policy on air quality. In order to gather views, opinions and ideas, the European Commission will be holding a public consultation until 4 March 2013. People can share their views on ways to ensure full implementation of the existing framework, to improve it, and to complement it with supporting actions. The results of the consultation will feed into a comprehensive review of Europe's air policies due in 2013.
The public consultation has been open for 4 weeks, and 25 000 European citizens in 27 Member States have already voiced their opinions. The Commission will shortly issue the results of in-depth analysis and extensive consultation with a new proposal on the future of EU air policy for 2013