Bridging the gap between environment and health is a scientific challenge
How to quantify health effects of environmental risk factors?
Environmental risk factors have an impact on human health and well-being. They can cause disease and sometimes even premature deaths. Today, 30-40 million Europeans suffer from respiratory problems because of air pollution. Exposure to industrial chemicals can lead to infertility or disturb the normal development of the nerve system during childhood. Noise from traffic disturbs our sleep and thus affects our performance at work and at home. New types of environment-related health risks are emerging. People are concerned about how climate change may affect human health, due to increasing temperatures and more frequent extremes. New technologies, such as nanotechnology, may cause risks to human health and the environment at scales that we are not yet able to ascertain.
The European Environment and Health Action Plan for the period 2004-2010 sets out to comprehensively tackle these issues. The IES supports this Action Plan by providing scientifically grounded information which is needed to help the EU and the Member States reduce adverse health impacts from environmental factors and to better enhance cooperation between actors in the environment, health and research fields. The ENVIHEALTH Action is developing systems to collect, analyze and store information about environmental quality. This information is put into a human health context with the overall aim of unveiling environment and health interactions. This work includes the development and application of informatics tools, harmonisation through geo-referenced database management and information mining of health statistics.
The Action analyses and compares different quantitative models for estimating health impacts, with the aim of developing and refining them in order to pave the way towards a European consensus approach. In particular, the Action investigates how to optimally apply the “Environmental Burden of Disease” (EBD) concept, developed by the World Health Organization and the World Bank to quantify health effects of environmental factors. The idea is to develop this concept not only into a methodology for delivering more accurate environment and health estimates, but also into a tool for communication, providing a simple way to raise awareness of environmental health impacts.
The objectives are to:
More information and background:
- Environment and Health in Europe 2005, a report produced jointly by the JRC and the European Environment Agency, gives an overview of the current environment and health situation in Europe (EEA Report 10/2005).
- Development of a roadmap for Integrating Monitoring and Information Systems for Health and Environment Assessments in the Member States.
- Environmental indicators of chemical contamination. Monitoring REACH implementation. Report to DG ESTAT.
- “Early exposure – late effects” input for the EEA “Belgrade Report” 2007.
- Long-term health effects of the Chernobyl accident input for the EEA Belgrade Report, 2007.
- Climate change and human health.
- The Impact of New Nanotechnologies in our Environment” for the UNEP GEO Yearbook 2007.
- DG Environment
- DG Health and Consumer Protection
- DG Research and Technological Development
- DG EUROSTAT
- European Environment Agency (EEA)
- The European Centre for Desease Prevention and Control (ECDC)
- The World Health Organisation (WHO-Europe)
- Member States
European Union Environment and Health Action Plan 2004-2010 - COM/2004/416 final
Peter Pärt - Tel: (+39) 0332 785496 E-mail: peter.part(at)jrc.ec.europa.eu