Environment and Health

Background, initiatives, publications, links and events related to the environment and health

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), environmental factors such as air and water pollution, noise, and chemicals trigger one-quarter of chronic and non-communicable diseases. On the contrary, the positive health impact of a well-managed natural environment has also been shown.

To tackle this issue, the EU has modernised chemicals legislation and put in place a broad range of environmental legislation, which has resulted in overall reduced air, water and soil pollution.

The EU also supports research in this field. Since 1998 over 400 environment and health research projects, receiving over 1.2 billion euros from the EU, have been funded under the Fifth (1998-2002), Sixth (2002-2006), Seventh Framework Programmes for Research (2007–2013) and the current framework programme Horizon 2020 (2014-2020). Details on these projects are available:

There are currently three larger initiatives that merit special attention as regards EU support for environment and health research:

The European Exposome Cluster

The aim of this cluster, running from 2012 until 2019, was to create a framework to improve our understanding of how all the exposures of an individual (e.g. pollutants, noise, food ingredients, consumer products, natural or urban environments, etc.) over his/her lifetime impact on his/her 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 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 with a foreseen duration of 5 years.

European Cluster for Research on Endocrine disruptor testing and screening

Endocrine disruptors are chemical substances that alter the functioning of the hormonal system and, consequently, negatively affect the health of humans and animals.

On 7 November 2018, the Commission adopted a Communication, confirming its commitment to protecting citizens and the environment from chemicals with endocrine-disrupting properties.

In support of EU policies dealing with endocrine disruptors, the implementation of the criteria on endocrine disruptors for the EU plant protection and biocide regulations and the 2018 Communication, EU has made a significant investment in research (factsheet). In January 2019 eight new Horizon 2020 projects on novel testing and screening methods for endocrine disruptors were launched.

The eight projects will form a cluster, advised by a common International Advisory Board for Regulatory Matters, and will collaborate 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.