What the Commission does
Due to public concerns and needs to protect citizens' health from impacts of environmental degradation, the European Union has over the past decades established an extensive framework of thematic programmes and regulatory actions related to environment and health.
Environment and health research and innovation is framed by several wider strategies and policy initiatives such as:
- European Green Deal
- 8th Environmental Action Programme
- Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability
- Zero Pollution Action Plan
Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda
HERA coordination action
HERA is a coordination and support action (2019-2021), funded by Horizon 2020, including 24 participating institutions.
The project's overall aim is to identify priorities for an environment, climate and health research agenda in the EU. A first draft of the research and innovation agenda is available.
Research and innovation supporting the Chemical Strategy for Sustainability
European Human Biomonitoring Initiative (HBM4EU)
HBM4EU is a European Joint Programme co-funded by Horizon 2020 providing €50 million out of a total budget of €74 million (2017-2021). The objective 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.
HBM4EU data is FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable) and is accessible via the European Commission’s IPCheM data portal.
The output is EU-wide evidence to support sound policy-making for chemicals regulations in Europe. Results produced so far such as guidelines and all steps of human biomonitoring are openly available.
Horizon Europe candidate Partnership for the Assessment of Risks from Chemicals (PARC)
The core activities of HBM4EU will be pursued under the planned European Partnership for the Assessment of Risks from Chemicals (PARC), which is foreseen to start in 2022.
It aims to be an EU-wide research and innovation programme to support EU and national chemical risk assessment and risk management bodies with new data, knowledge, methods, networks and skills to address current, emerging and novel chemical safety challenges. It will facilitate innovation in chemical risk assessment to better protect human health and the environment.
European Cluster to Improve Identification of Endocrine Disruptors (EURION)
Endocrine disruptors are chemical substances that alter the functioning of the hormonal system. In January 2019, 8 Horizon 2020 projects on novel testing and screening methods for endocrine disruptors were launched.
They will run until 2023 and receive approximately €49 million from the EU. The 8 projects (ATHENA, EDCMET, ENDpoiNTs, ERGO, FREIA, GOLIATH, OBERON, SCREENED) 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.
European Cluster on Health Impacts of Micro- and Nanoplastics
One of the priorities of the last calls of Horizon 2020 was to support some of the research aspects identified in the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy and other relevant policies.
Several calls for proposals were launched, including a specific topic for the health area Micro- and nano-plastics in our environment: Understanding exposures and impacts on human health.
5 new projects (POLYRISK, AURORA, IMPTOX, PLASTICHEAL, PlasticsFatE – 2021-2025) for a total of €30 million funding were selected from this topic started in April 2021 and will form the micro- and nano-plastics (MNP) Health Cluster.
Research in support of animal-free approaches to chemical safety
The European Commission supports the development and application of animal-free approaches to advance chemical safety assessment. In 2016, the project EU-TOXRISK started with the focus on improving the efficiency of predictive toxicological testing. The project will end in 2021.
Building on this initiative, 3 projects have been launched in 2021 (RISK-HUNT3R, PrecisionTox, ONTOX – €60 million funding, 2021-2026) to progress the development, validation and translation of animal-free alternative methods. The projects have formed a cluster to optimise impact and maximise synergies to improve the safety assessment of chemicals without the use of animal testing.
Research and innovation supporting the Zero Pollution Action Plan
Project portfolios from the Horizon 2020 Green Deal call
Under Horizon 2020, a last call to support the European Green Deal was launched in 2020, with €1 billion funding available. This call covers several areas of the Green Deal and for each of them a set of topics.
For the ‘Zero-Pollution, Toxic free Environment’ area 2 topics were opened: "Innovative, systemic zero-pollution solutions to protect health, environment and natural resources from persistent and mobile chemicals" (€40 million) and "Fostering regulatory science to address combined exposures to industrial chemicals and pharmaceuticals: from science to evidence-based policies" (€20 million).
Selected projects will be known by summer 2021.
European Human Exposome Network (EHEN)
The human exposome is an 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.
The European Human Exposome Network (2020-2025) is the world’s largest network of projects studying the impact of environmental exposure on human health. It combines 9 projects (ATHLETE, EPHOR, EQUAL-LIFE, EXIMIOUS, EXPANSE, HEAP, HEDIMED, LONGITOOLS, REMEDIA) that receive over €100 million from Horizon 2020, running for five years from 2020 until 2024.
European Urban Health Cluster
Urban health refers to the wellbeing and health of people who live in cities. It focuses on the causal link between common chronic health conditions and the urban environment.
Research and innovation activities on urban health will build upon the results of the INHERIT and BlueHealth projects, among others. As there is a need to strengthen health aspects in urban agendas, the last Horizon 2020 Health Work Programme included the topic "Innovative actions for improving urban health and wellbeing - addressing environment, climate and socioeconomic factors" .
6 projects resulted from this call (ENLIGHTENme, URBANOME, RECETAS, WELLBASED, eMOTIONAL Cities, HEART) , representing a total of €30 million funding (2021-2025). They will form a network to enhance collaboration and promote the importance of considering health and well-being in urban related strategies.
20 years of EU research in environment and health
Detailed information, including results, are available on all environment and health-related projects funded by the EU in the Fifth (1998-2002), Sixth (2002-2006), and the Seventh Framework Programmes for Research (2007–2013; vol.1 and vol.2) as well as in Horizon 2020 (2014 until 2020)