What the Commission does

Due to persistent public concerns about the impact of environmental factors on health and the need to provide a solid scientific evidence base for evolving policies, the European Union (EU) has supported a wide range of research in the area of environment and health.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), environmental factors such as air and water pollution, noise, and chemicals trigger 25% of chronic and non-communicable diseases.

The EU has modernised chemicals legislation and put in place a broad range of environmental legislation to tackle this issue. The result has been overall reduced air, water and soil pollution.

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Environment and health research supported by the EU research and innovation framework programmes

Project outcomes in this area will support the European Green Deal’s ambition to protect citizens’ health and well-being from pollution and environmental deterioration by providing new evidence to design better prevention policies.

There are currently several initiatives that merit special attention:

  • The European Human Exposome Network
  • The European Human Biomonitoring Initiative (HBM4EU)
  • EURION: the European Cluster to Improve Identification of Endocrine Disruptors
  • Urban Health
  • Exposure to plastics and effects on human health

The European Human Exposome Network

The European Human Exposome Network is the world’s largest network of projects studying the impact of environmental exposure on human health, demonstrating European leadership in this field. It combines nine projects that receive over €100 million from Horizon 2020, running for five years from 2020 until 2024.

The Human Exposome is an emerging area of research that explores how exposure to environmental factors (pollution, diet, lifestyle, socioeconomic factors, work, environment, infections etc.) affects our health and wellbeing throughout life, starting from conception and pregnancy. Research on the Human Exposome will enable a better understanding of the cause of many common diseases and ultimately improve disease prevention and health promotion.

European Human Biomonitoring Initiative (HBM4EU)

The objective of this initiative is to create a European programme for monitoring the exposure of European citizens to chemicals and understanding the potential impact of such exposures 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 for chemicals regulations in Europe.

The initiative started on 1 January 2017 and is planned to last 5 years.

EURION: European Cluster to Improve Identification of Endocrine Disruptors

Endocrine disruptors are chemical substances that alter the functioning of the hormonal system.

In January 2019 eight new Horizon 2020 projects on novel testing and screening methods for endocrine disruptors were launched.

The 8 projects have formed a cluster, advised by a common International Advisory Board for Regulatory Matters, and are collaborating with the Commission’s Joint Research Centre to promote the validation of new methods developed. The outcomes of the projects will feed into the Endocrine Disrupter Screening and Testing Programme of the OECD.


Urban Health

Urban health refers to the wellbeing and health of people who live in the cities.

It focuses on the causality link between common chronic health conditions and the urban environment.

Research and innovation activities on urban health will be built upon the results of the INHERIT and BlueHealth projects, among others, and future research projects arising from Horizon 2020 topic  SC1-BHC-29-2020: Innovative actions for improving urban health and wellbeing - addressing environment, climate and socioeconomic factors – currently open for proposal submissions.

Exposure to plastics and effects on human health

One of the priorities of the Work Programme for 2020 of the Societal Challenge 1 of Horizon 2020 will be to support the implementation of some of the research aspects identified in the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy and other relevant policies. Several calls for proposals are open, including SC1-BHC-36-2020: Micro-and nano-plastics in our environment: Understanding exposures and impacts on human health.

Project results from framework programmes

Since 1998 over 500 environment and health research projects, receiving over €1.8 billion have been funded under the Fifth (1998-2002), Sixth (2002-2006), Seventh Framework Programmes for Research (2007–2013; vol.1 and vol.2) and the current framework programme Horizon 2020 (2014 until 2018).

Scientific publications

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

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