European Respiratory Society demands ‘decisive action’ to achieve clean air in Europe for all

Speaking at the recent Clean Air in Europe for All conference in Brussels, the European Respiratory Society’s Professor Zorana J Andersen called for the European Union to take ‘decisive action’ to achieve clean air in Europe for all, highlighting the number of deaths and diseases attributed to poor air quality across the continent.

‘Air pollution and climate change are inseparable issues,’ she said. ‘Reducing air pollution and mitigating climate change should be dealt with together to help protect our health.’

The conference was attended by international experts, policymakers and scientists who had gathered to analyse proposed revisions to EU’s Ambient Air Quality Directive (AAQD) which has set a target of zero air pollution by 2050, with an interim target of 2030 to meet WHO standards.

The ERS called for swift adoption of the Directive, observing that by aligning the Directive with the WHO air quality standards and improving on existing interventions to tackle air pollution, Europe can take significant steps towards achieving the zero-pollution target and safeguarding public health.

Topics covered at the conference included:

  • Health effects at low levels of exposure to pollution
  • The relative contributions of the different sources and constituents of air pollution
  • Best practice examples of successful air quality interventions
  • Maximising health benefits for everyone in Europe and beyond

Dr Maria Neira – Director of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health at the WHO said: ‘We need the European Union as a champion on the adoption of the WHO standards. We know that those are ambitious, but how can you not be ambitious when you are talking about protecting people’s health?’

Javi Lopez, Member of the European Parliament, said: ‘Tackling air pollution requires a multifaceted approach that engages all sectors, necessitating the collaboration of policymakers, researchers, healthcare professionals, and civil society.

‘It is a battle that requires political will, public support, and an unwavering commitment to prioritise human lives over all else.’

Virginijus Sinkevicius, European Commissioner for Environment, emphasised: ‘Despite improvements, pollution remains the largest environmental threat to our health and a significant challenge for our economy. It disproportionately affects vulnerable populations.

‘We need to ensure that our co-legislators have a solid understanding of the evidence base and the measures that work best to reduce this pollution.

The Clean Air in Europe for All conference was organised by ERS in partnership with the Health Effects Institute (HEI) and the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE).


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1 year ago

Thnk you Paul. Where you quote “‘Reducing air pollution and mitigating climate change should be dealt with together”, I see some problems. First, I fear many members of the public think CO2 is the main kind of air pollution, when in fact it is something vital to life. The problem is how much – and, as we know, the CO2 LEVEL is massively too high in the atmosphere, and still rising, and hence of grave concern. I believe CO2 got termed an “air pollutant” by the USA EPA, so that they could legally attempt to tackle it, which is good – but it means many people do not know the difference between CO2, NO2 and fine particulates – putting them altogether is not helpful.S econd, there are plenty of people and organisaitons (including the UK Government) who think that burning biomass for energy will help grealty towards reducing our CO2 debt. But others say this will only happen on paper, because the burning will in fact ADD to the CO2 nightmare. Wood burning is not necessarily “green” or “low carbon” or sustainable – and the combustion releases even more PM pollution into the air, as well as more CO2.. Personally, I’d prefer not to combine the terrible CO2 problem & (indeed all the other greenhouse gases too) with the other kinds of air pollution. They are not the same and may need different solutions. Biomass burning is not the answer because it emits pollution (the real kind) and is not (usually) a renewable. But I fear our Government is claiming it is – to help counter the CO2 problem. See what I mean?

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