European Air Pollution still an issue
The health effects of air pollution have been underestimated and Europe should revisit its laws to tackle the problem, UN scientists have concluded after a major review of new evidence.
Sixty international scientists, commissioned by the World Health Organization, analysed eight years of studies to see how minute specks of soot, gases such as ozone and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and other pollutants from road and rail traffic, industry and indoor fires harm human health.
In addition to premature deaths from respiratory and heart diseases, they found links to new conditions such as diabetes and still births and adverse effects on the cognitive development of children born to mothers exposed to even small levels of air pollution.
Studies on NO2, said the report, produced new evidence of long-term effects, "including harm to health at levels below existing EU limit values. The consequences for entire populations, including people with existing respiratory and heart problems, would be significant", said the report.
The scientists, who included cardiologists, epidemiologists, toxicologists and other public health experts, said that wood fires in the home, and even commuting to work by train and tube could significantly increase exposures to particulate matter, NO2, CO and benzene. Underground rail systems, such as the tube in London, were found to be a major contributor to the exposure to ultrafine particles, black carbon and some metals. Indoor sources of pollution, such as wood fires, also significantly harmed people's health.
Anne Stauffer, deputy director at the Health and environment alliance (HEAL), a civil society group, said the results "are a wake-up call for decision-makers in Europe to take air pollution more seriously. The new findings provide evidence-based science that EU policies are inadequate. Twice as many people suffer from asthma today compared to 30 years ago".
Smog over Paris image via Shutterstock.
Read more at EurActiv.