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An Illustrative project
Eleven groups of researchers from 10 EU countries on the APHEA project studied the short-term effects of urban air pollution on the health of inhabitants. Carried out in 15 European cities, the study was based on a comparative analysis of a series of statistics on recorded pollution levels and daily mortality/morbidity rates. The results showed that all the pollutants studied (suspended particles, sulphur dioxide, ozone, carbon dioxide) - with the exception of NO2 - had a real effect on daily cardiovascular and respiratory mortality rates. The results also varied from one city to another. Environment, climate, and health of the population (notably life expectancy) are all factors which APHEA 2 is currently studying.
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Implications for society
The impact of environmental factors on health brings the need for very strict measures to protect the population. Urban pollution levels - and sometimes levels in rural areas, too - have already been shown to have serious consequences for health, particularly when ozone levels are high, due to emissions from traffic and industrial activities. Other concerns include certain gas emissions from waste incineration. Major scientific and technological research efforts are therefore required in order to identify and prevent the effects of pollution.
Implications for the economy
Damage to health, such as that resulting from the use of asbestos in buildings - which was common practice for decades - has both a social cost and an impact on public health expenditure. There is not only a social obligation to develop clean processes, they must also provide a crucial competitive advantage in all sectors of European industrial production.
Implications for Europe
Environmental problems do not stop at borders. This is why European and international regulations now govern the harmful effects linked to air pollution, heavy metals, toxic substances, electromagnetic radiation, noise, and the various forms of pollution to be found in the work place. At the same time, there is now extensive scientific and technological cooperation at the EU level.
Targeted fields of research
- Research into diseases and allergies related to the environment - Methods of treatment and prevention, based on reliable epidemiological data and an understanding of the pathogenesis mechanisms: analysis and quantification of the impact of environmental factors on human health; interrelations between environmental and public health indicators; more efficient prevention and treatment methods.
- New methods of diagnosis, risk assessment and prevention of harmful environmental health effects. Implementation of multi-disciplinary approaches for a better understanding of interactions between the social and physical environment and health. Identification of groups vulnerable to environmental exposures and preventive measures to reduce causes and environmental factors dangerous to health (bio-markers, improvement of predictive toxicity testing, epidemiological and biomedical studies on possible effects linked to non-ionising irradiation - such as from mobile phones).