EU should ban brain-harming chlorpyrifos to protect health

Exposure to chlorpyrifos is linked to ADHD and autism. It should not be allowed on the European market

Today, the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) together with Générations Futures, Pesticide Action Network Europe and Pesticide Action Network Germany released a factsheet on the health effects of chlorpyrifos.

Chlorpyrifos is one of the most widely used pesticides in Europe and its residues are also commonly found in our food. The current authorisation for chlorpyrifos on the European market will expire on 31 January 2019. We are very concerned about the possibility of an extended authorisation due to its health harming properties. Chlorpyrifos is linked to the disruption of the hormonal system and effects on the developing human brain. Children exposed to chlorpyrifos in the womb or in early life can suffer neurodevelopmental effects later in life, like attention deficit disorders (ADHD) and autism.

This factsheet sets out the case and evidence against the use of chlorpyrifos and explains the health impacts which justify its ban.

Reference.

What Healthcare Professionals Need to Know about Pharmaceutical Marketing in the European Union

Fact or Fiction ?

85.2% of medical students recently surveyed in France (n=2,101) reported feeling inadequately educated about conlicts of interest arising from interactions with the pharmaceutical industry

Healthcare professionals are highly exposed to pharmaceutical marketing activities. Evidence shows that exposure to information from pharmaceutical companies does not lead to net improvements in prescribing, but can negatively affect prescribing and professional behaviour.

This guide and its workshop series build on the publication, Understanding and Responding to Pharmaceutical Promotion: A Practical Guide, produced by Health Action International, in collaboration with the World Health Organization, in 2009, as a companion to the WHO’s Guide to Good Prescribing.

EU’s criteria for regulating EDCs do not go far enough

Endocrine Society calls for revising strategy to protect public health

Washington, DCThe Endocrine Society expressed continued concerns today that the European Union’s (EU’s) criteria for regulating endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in pesticides and biocides do not go far enough to protect public health.

An EDC is a chemical that mimics, blocks or interferes with the body’s hormones. EDCs contribute to serious health problems such as diabetes, obesity, neurodevelopmental disorders and reproductive problems.

The criteria for biocides take effect today and will be implemented according to a guidance document issued by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA). The Society’s scientific experts remain concerned that the final criteria require an excessively high level of proof that a chemical is an endocrine disruptor, and that the guidance document creates further unnecessary barriers to regulating harmful EDCs.

The Endocrine Society asserts that the finding of an adverse effect that involves hormones or endocrine systems should be sufficient to identify an EDC. A detailed study of action and mechanisms should not be required.

In addition, the guidance has a limited scope. It looks at only four endocrine pathways, and fails to address other pathways that affect important functions such as metabolism, body weight and insulin action.

EDC regulations should be designed to protect the most vulnerable populations–including fetuses, children and adolescents–from irreversible effects. EDCs are found in a number of products, including food contact materials, manufacturing chemicals, children’s toys, cosmetics and personal care products. Those potential sources of exposure need to be addressed beyond the EU’s biocides and pesticide laws.

In its position statement, the Society called for the EU to revise its 1999 strategy on EDCs to account for new scientific information developed in recent years and with the aim of minimizing exposure to hazardous EDCs throughout the environment and in consumer products.

Additional research also is needed to improve understanding of EDCs. New studies could explain how EDC exposures affect people during various life stages, including adolescence. More research also could shed light on how EDC exposure contributes to reproductive health issues, such as declining sperm counts.

EU Obligation to Protect its People and the Environment from All Harm caused by Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

A more protective European approach to endocrine disruptors is long overdue. Read our eight demands to the EU Commission for an EDC-Free future

EDC-Free Europe Statement on EU EDCs Strategy, May 2018.

Why we are concerned

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are increasing our chances of getting serious and potentially lethal diseases and health disorders as highlighted by experts from the World Health Organization (WHO), scientists from the Endocrine Society, and others. In these reviews of scientific literature, impacts from EDCs have been linked to reproductive and fertility problems such as drastically falling sperm rates, as well as hormone dependent cancers such as breast and prostate cancers. Neurological impairments including autism and IQ loss as well as metabolic changes including obesity and diabetes have also been associated with exposures to EDCs. In wildlife, there is further evidence of reproductive and developmental harm linked to impairments in endocrine function in a number of wildlife species: EDCs have been associated with changes in immunity and behaviour as well as skeletal deformities.

A growing body of science underpins the ways in which some people are more vulnerable than others to the health impacts of endocrine disruption, even in small doses, with effects sometimes appearing decades later. The time during development in the womb and during early childhood has been found to be a particularly sensitive window of exposure and has raised serious concerns among health professionals. In 2015 over 100 national societies of obstetricians and gynaecologists from around the world called on policymakers to prioritise reducing exposures as an important means of disease prevention.

Avoiding EDCs is not a choice that a person can make anymore. EDCs are found everywhere in our daily lives: from high-profile substances, such as the bisphenols used in the making of certain plastic bottles and can linings, and restricted phthalates that are still found in one out of five toys; the flame retardants used in sofas; the pesticides sprayed on and ending up in our food; and the antimicrobial biocides found in cleaning products. They are nearly everywhere, both at home and in the workplace. The nonprofit research institute the Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX) lists over 1,400 potential EDCs, the WHO mentions over 800 EDCs, and many more suspected EDCs still need to be investigated.

EDCs end up in all of us – children and adults alike – contaminating our bodies without our consent or knowledge. Human biomonitoring samples of urine, hair and blood across Europe are starting to demonstrate the extent of that internal pollution. In France, over 20 EDCs were found in women tested for the presence of these chemicals in 2015. The European Biomonitoring Initiative has included many EDCs and potential EDCs in its priority list and the results will be used to inform policy decisions on specific substances.

Most importantly, EU laws regulating EDCs are not protecting us – the ones that are supposed to do so are patchy, not properly implemented and leave huge gaps where EDCs are not regulated at all such as in cosmetics, toys, textiles, furniture and food packaging and in other articles that we come into contact with every day.

What we want

In 2017 the EU Commission committed to bring out a new integrated strategy on EDCs which is supposed to cover ´for example toys, cosmetics and food packaging´. Previous attempts to update the existing EU Community Strategy on EDCs from 1999 with recent scientific advances and actions to tackle the problem was derailed by intense industry lobby in 2013 as documented by the investigation ‘Toxic Affair’.

We are calling on EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to bring out a fully-fledged strategy before the summer of 2018. This would include a concrete action plan aiming for a high level of protection for human health, especially vulnerable groups, and the environment. Tangible activities should have clear targets, a timeline and a reasonable budget. This would be an opportunity for reconnecting the EU’s agenda with citizens’ demands for better public health protection on EDCs as illustrated by widely supported petitions developed and supported by the EDC-Free campaign partners in 2017. The first one was delivered to member states with almost half a million signatures in July, and the second one with over 300,000 signatures in October.

An EU EDC strategy could also support and build on efforts by progressive countries, such as France, Sweden and Denmark, which are already implementing actions on EDCs. Belgium has just announced the launch of a national action plan on EDCs. It should be in the interest of the European Commission to promote harmonisation when it leads to an equal and high level of protection for all EU citizens, and supports the avoidance of barriers to trade within the European single market. Today, a clear EU commitment is needed to reduce people`s exposure to EDCs in a more comprehensive way throughout Europe.

This is not only a unique opportunity to increase well-being by preventing diseases, but it can also contribute to reducing the rising costs associated with EDC-related illnesses, as showed by a study evaluating the bill at a staggering 163 billion Euros a year for Europe, even though its scope covered only a few, rather than all, EDC-related illnesses. This is also an opportunity for policy coherence and for the EU to set a regulatory framework that builds the foundations for a truly non-toxic circular economy by encouraging industrial innovation through safer substitution. Considering that our exposure to preventable environmental chemicals is estimated to result in health costs worth 10% of global GDP, there is a real business case for promoting safe substitution to toxic EDCs through a comprehensive EU strategy for action.

We need a comprehensive action plan that effectively prevents further impacts on health and ends wildlife loss associated with EDCs. It needs to set out legal actions for eliminating exposure and to contribute towards meeting the 2030 commitments set out in the Sustainable Development Goals to “substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water, and soil pollution and contamination“.

The EU EDC Strategy must reflect the most recent advances in science and draw the logical conclusions from them by complementing existing obligations in the EU regulatory context. The following identifies the eight crucial elements that the EDC strategy needs to include to enable the EU to effectively protect health and the environment against EDCs.

Essential elements of an EU Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Strategy

  1. Consider public health and precaution as the cornerstones of a new EU EDC Strategy
    Protect those who are most vulnerable. Reduce exposures to children to prevent suffering from EDC-related diseases and the spiralling costs associated with treating them. Build on and expand the short-, medium- and long-term actions from the 1999 EU EDC strategy and augment their effectiveness.
  2. Enhance public awareness of EDCs – connect it with the EU’s work on protecting citizen’s health
    A recent Eurobarometer survey found that two out of three European citizens are concerned about exposure to chemicals in their daily lives through food, air, drinking water and consumer products or other items, as well as in the workplace. Less than half of the same group felt well informed about the potential dangers of chemicals. A Europe-wide campaign to raise awareness on EDCs is needed.
    Specific focuses of such a campaign should include:

    • Informing parents before and during pregnancy, and families in general, about ways to minimise exposures in everyday life.
    • The dissemination of good practice for exposure reductions and health advice connected to grassroots and local agendas and the creation of a bank of success stories showing how the EU is making a difference.
    • Information and training materials for medical, health and educational professionals and multiplier groups so that they can advise the public on reducing their exposures.
    • A response to consumers’ concerns and the provision of tools for traceability and the right to know for chemicals in products.
  3. Improve regulation: Increase the control of the use of EDCs across all sectors
    • Make a plan with timetables to implement suitable EDC criteria in all relevant EU laws to identify and reduce exposures to EDCs.
    • Address missed deadlines first, like the 2015 one for cosmetics and obvious loopholes like toys, food packaging regulations. Commit to addressing other relevant EU legislation and sources of exposure, such as public procurement, worker’s exposure, textiles, etc. and deliver on the 7th EAP commitment.
    • Support the implementation of the EU Plastics Strategy by banning the presence of EDCs in plastics in particular as the presence of EDCs can hinder recyclability and negatively affect the value of recyclates.
    • EDCs should be regulated with the presumption that no safe threshold for exposure can be set with sufficient certainty.
    • EDCs should be regulated by using group approaches based on similar structures and similar properties to avoid regrettable substitution.
    • Implement and enforce, efficiently and ambitiously, the existing regulatory obligations controlling the use of EDCs. This includes speeding up the inclusion of EDCs in the REACH candidate list of substances of very high concern and the adoption of measures to limit exposure, such as REACH restrictions or REACH authorisation. Currently only 12 substances have been identified as EDCs under REACH.
    • Accelerate the assessment of EDCs to implement restrictions on them in pesticides and biocides.
    • Create new sectorial laws to ensure robust protection in priority for consumer products. For most consumer products, e.g. textiles, child care articles, plastics there is no specific provision addressing EDCs.
  4. Reduce our EDC daily cocktail: Replace the substance-by-substance approach by including all possible sources of exposure to multiple chemicals
    • Prioritise the identification and regulation of the most problematic groups of hormone disrupting chemicals and swiftly act on known co-exposures to harmful chemicals from various sources (e.g. indoor air pollution, dust, food contact materials). Move from a single substance risk assessment to cumulative assessments for chemicals acting on the same adverse outcome and similar chemicals. Sweden and Denmark are looking at this issue in the context of their national work.
    • Respond more swiftly to early warning signals from new scientific findings about potential health or environmental damages in re-approvals and authorisations of substances. When concerns show up in one chemical use, a risk evaluation should automatically be triggered across legislative ‘silos’ to fully assess the impact of cumulative exposures and to ensure swift action in the absence of full scientific certainty.
  5. Speed up testing, screening and identification of EDCs
    • Update test requirements with new and updated screens and test methods in all relevant EU laws so that data gaps will be closed and EDCs can be identified. The EU should systematically make industry responsible for providing sufficient evidence to demonstrate safety.
    • Prioritise data collection on potential EDCs and draw up lists to communicate to consumers and business alike.
    • Improve the screening and testing guidelines used to identify EDCs and address data gaps.
  6. Work towards a clean ´Circular economy´ and a non-toxic environment: Avoid toxic substances such as EDCs in products from the start
    • Need to have full traceability to avoid finding EDCs in recycled materials.
    • Need to have producer responsibility. Each company should be obliged to inform consumers about the chemical content of their products, including the packaging.
    • Need to have the same level of protection from EDCs for primary and secondary materials, which means that when an EDC is banned from a virgin material, it should be banned from recycled materials as well, contrary to current practice.
  7. Enhance European market leadership for safer substitution with no regrets and promotion of innovative solutions
    • Support initiatives that guide companies to move away from EDCs. Some examples can be found at chemsec.org – market place, the ‘dating platform’ for companies trying to meet a provider of safer alternatives.
    • Limit and avoid the use of pesticides in agriculture and the management of green or urban areas and set specific targets for an overall reduction of pesticide use in line with the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive (2009/128/EC).
    • Encourage communication campaigns at a national level in order for citizens to be 1) more mindful about chemical use in their daily lives, in particular during pregnancy and with children, 2) to have the right to know about EDCs in products.
  8. Monitor the health and environmental effects of single, groups and mixtures of ED substances to capture all sources of EDC exposure ‘across the board’ and respond swiftly to minimise them
    • Ensure sufficient focus on investigating chemicals of new and emerging concern which are used as replacements for banned chemicals in the context of the EU Human Biomonitoring Initiative.
    • Develop sensitive test methods with new endpoints such as chemicals interfering with brain development and ensure they are appropriately considered within the regulatory evaluations.

EDC-Free Europe is a coalition of public interest groups representing more than 70 environmental, health, women’s and consumer groups across Europe who share a concern about hormone disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and their impact on our health and wildlife. Campaign partners include trade unions, consumers, public health and healthcare professionals, advocates for cancer prevention, environmentalists and women’s groups.

Reference. Image credit @EDCFree

The Endocrine Society calls for improved guidance to identify endocrine-disrupting chemicals

Changes needed to ensure implementation of EU EDC criteria will protect public health

WASHINGTONThe Endocrine Society called for European regulators to ensure that endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) can be identified using practical, achievable scientific standards in detailed comments on a draft guidance document for implementing criteria for the identification of EDCs.

An EDC is a chemical or mixture of chemicals that can cause adverse health effects by interfering with hormones in the body. There are more than 85,000 manufactured chemicals, of which thousands may be EDCs. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are found in everyday products and throughout the environment.

The European Commission requested that the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) and European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) develop the guidance for implementing new criteria for regulating EDCs. While the two agencies offered a thoughtful and practical approach to regulation of EDCs, the Society’s experts noted several concerns in the draft guidance that need to be addressed to ensure EDCs posing a risk to public health can be identified.

The Endocrine Society encourages the authors of the guidance to ensure that regulatory agencies can identify chemicals that interfere with hormone action and define them as EDCs based on a realistic standard of scientific information, minimizing the potential for mischaracterization of harmful chemicals. The Society also asked for more clarify on situations where agencies may not have sufficient information to evaluate a chemical.

The Society called for broadening the scope of the guidance to incorporate all potential toxicity effects that are relevant to endocrine disruption. The current draft focuses on tests and endpoints for EDCs that mimic, block, or interfere with estrogen, androgen, and thyroid hormones and the body’s production of steroids. However, chemicals can disrupt other endocrine pathways that depend on proper hormone function, such as metabolism. Disrupting these pathways can lead to adverse consequences such as weight gain and insulin resistance.

The Society encouraged regulatory agencies to review and update the guidance in the future as necessary to incorporate the latest scientific evidence on EDCs. The Society also highlighted problems in the thyroid section of the guidance recommending that regulators strengthen this section to ensure that this important and complex pathway is properly assessed.

Society experts will continue to provide input to the European Commission, EFSA and ECHA as they revise the guidance and European Union regulations. Science based regulations on EDCs are crucial to ensure a high level of health and environmental protection and protect the public from the harms due to EDC exposure.

Can pharmaceutical companies hold States hostage ?

Roche decided to withdraw an innovative oncology medicine from the Greek market, claiming that its price has fallen more than 50% because of the government’s regulatory interventions in the pharma area…

Roche decision to remove the drug from the prescribed medicines list means that its cost can no longer be covered by the state…

“There is a need to develop strong and systematic synergies in the policy area of pharmaceuticals, particularly on bargaining power in order to prevent unfair trading practices that are especially inappropriate in this very sensitive area,”

the Greek Council delegation said, adding that the case goes beyond narrow national interests.

More Information – Press Releases

  • Drug pricing debate to take place in heated atmosphere, euractiv, December 8, 2017.
  • Athens brings its dispute with pharma industry to the EU Council, euractiv, November 24, 2017.
  • Pharmaceutical company gives free access to drug after clash with Greek government, euractiv, Nov 2, 2017.
  • Greek health minister fumes at pharmaceutical company after drug withdrawal, euractiv, October 31, 2017.
  • Pharmaceutical company withdraws oncology drug from Greek market, euractiv, Oct 30, 2017.
  • Greek government on collision course with pharmaceutical companies over innovative drugs, euractiv, Oct 25, 2017.
  • New Commission study fuels generic drugs industry ‘manufacturing dispute’, euractiv, Oct 13, 2017.
  • Special Report – Protecting innovation in the pharmaceuticals market, euractiv, Oct 13, 2017.
  • Southern EU states present unified front in drug talks, euractiv, May 10, 2017.

The Glyphosate Saga : Press conference, 27 September 2017

The Monsanto Papers : proof of scientific falsification

Video published on 18 Oct 2017 by Greens EFA.

Speakers:
Michèle RIVASI, Greens/EFA MEP
Kathryn FORGIE, Attorney / Avocate, Cabinet Andrus Wagstaff
Carey GILLAM, journalist, Research Director U.S. Right to Know

The Monsanto Papers, secret internal documents, have now been made public thanks to over 10,000 farmers who have taken Monsanto to court, accusing the company’s glyphosate weedkillers of causing them to develop a cancer called non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.

The documents reveal the various strategies and tactics used by Monsanto to ensure that they can sell their star product, RoundUp, despite the clear dangers for humans and for the environment.

Alternatives to pesticides

Alternatives Methods in Weed Management to the Use of Glyphosate and Other Herbicides

Alternatives to herbicide use in weed management – The case of glyphosate

Introduction

While the use of synthetic pesticides in agriculture might have helped to increase food production, this has not occurred without great costs to human health, the environment and natural resources. The 2017 UN report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food highlights the adverse impact of pesticide use on human rights, human health (workers, their families, bystanders, residents and consumers) and the environment. The report also reveals that intensive agriculture based on pesticide use has not contributed to reduce world hunger, but rather it has helped to increase the consumption of food and food waste especially in industrialised countries.

Herbicides have been introduced in agriculture (and horticulture) mainly to combat weeds that compete with crops for nutrients and sunlight resulting in reduced crop yield and quality. Other common uses are to eradicate invasive plant species or undesirable plants for livestock farms, to assist the management of public areas, for aesthetic or practical reasons (e.g. sidewalks, pavements and railways) or for weed control in private gardens. In Europe, their use in farming has increased considerably to replace mechanical ploughing, which has been reported to cause soil degradation and soil nutrient loss, in certain geographic zones with high rainfall and specific types of crops, particularly in intensive agriculture (Derpsch, 1998).

There is an overall erroneous perception that herbicides are safe for human health and have little impact on the environment. Based on this misconception, humans have developed agricultural practices and invested in technological development that completely depends on the use of pesticides and herbicides. Many farmers have abandoned more sustainable farming techniques altogether. As a result, every day tonnes of herbicides are released into the environment and their surroundings, which not only put human health at risk, but also interfere with the biological processes of nature and the ecosystem services it offers to combat weeds and other pests naturally. Weeds become resistant, the soil get eroded and infertile, the crop susceptible to pathogens and diseases, and farmers feel obliged to use more pesticides to combat the new pests, and end up trapped in a “pesticide treadmill”.

In a similar manner to other pesticides, herbicide active ingredients are biologically active compounds. They are designed to pass through membranes and diffuse into the interior of living cells to exert the desirable toxic action (Kearney & Kaufman, 1975). Because of their properties, when these substances are used on open fields they will directly affect other non-target species in the area and the surroundings, and through a cascade of ecological interactions will end up affecting biodiversity. Furthermore, these same properties may allow them to interact with living cells of animal species including humans and result in toxicity. Herbicides can also be toxic to soil beneficial microorganisms (Grossbard & Davies, 1976) causing a decline in soil nutrients, fertility and defence systems. This has a direct impact on agriculture, where crops depend on the quality of the soil.

Their use has been so -unnecessarily- intensive that these chemicals have caused a great impact not only on soil health and agricultural production, but also to human health, the environment and its ecosystems. The present report aims to emphasise that we already have all the tools necessary to gradually start building a pesticide-free agricultural model and to confirm that weed control is possible using other means than harmful herbicides. There is an urgent need to develop technological methods of agriculture that do not depend on pesticide use. Using the popular glyphosate-based herbicides as a reference, the current analysis presents a wide variety of weed management approaches, where farmers work together – rather than against – nature and help maintain a high agricultural yield without contaminating the soil, destroying biodiversity and jeopardising human and environmental health. Since glyphosate-based herbicides are non-selective and of broad spectrum, the alternative methods presented in this report can also substitute the use of different herbicide products.

This report also covers topics such as the use of glyphosate in the EU and globally, pesticide sales in the EU, and impacts on soil behaviour and environmental safety, as well as human health.

By integrating the different available agricultural practices (e.g. preventive, agronomic and mechanical methods) with the broad knowledge we have acquired on the biological and ecological characteristics of herbs and plant crops, today farmers are capable of overcoming major agricultural challenges and manage weed growth successfully, maintaining a high agricultural yield, avoiding resistant species, protecting soil biodiversity and erosion, and reducing green-house emissions among others. This report presents and discusses the different alternative agricultural practices to herbicide use in weed control that when combined result in a sustainable weed management. This work was carried out in parallel with the project “Filming farmers across European Union on alternatives to herbicides (with specific reference to glyphosate)”, both being supported by The Greens/EFA of the EU.

More Information
  • Greens/EFA call for glyphosate-free future, greens-efa.eu, 18.10.2017.
  • A fair food and agriculture policy, A two-fold conference, greens-efa.eu, 18.10.2017.
  • Alternatives to herbicide use in weed management – The case of glyphosate, greens-efa.eu, 10.2017.

Distribution of glyphosate and aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA) in agricultural topsoils of the European Union

Glyphosate persists ! And European top soils are contaminated with it

2017 Study Highlights

  • Data on occurrence and levels of glyphosate residues in EU soils is very limited.
  • Glyphosate and its metabolite AMPA were tested in 317 EU agricultural topsoils.
  • 21% of the tested EU topsoils contained glyphosate, and 42% contained AMPA.
  • Both glyphosate and AMPA had a maximum concentration in soil of 2 mg kg− 1.
  • Some contaminated soils are in areas highly susceptible to water and wind erosion.

Abstract

Approval for glyphosate-based herbicides in the European Union (EU) is under intense debate due to concern about their effects on the environment and human health. The occurrence of glyphosate residues in European water bodies is rather well documented whereas only few, fragmented and outdated information is available for European soils.

We provide the first large-scale assessment of distribution (occurrence and concentrations) of glyphosate and its main metabolite aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA) in EU agricultural topsoils, and estimate their potential spreading by wind and water erosion. Glyphosate and/or AMPA were present in 45% of the topsoils collected, originating from eleven countries and six crop systems, with a maximum concentration of 2 mg kg− 1. Several glyphosate and AMPA hotspots were identified across the EU. Soil loss rates (obtained from recently derived European maps) were used to estimate the potential export of glyphosate and AMPA by wind and water erosion.

The estimated exports, result of a conceptually simple model, clearly indicate that particulate transport can contribute to human and environmental exposure to herbicide residues. Residue threshold values in soils are urgently needed to define potential risks for soil health and off site effects related to export by wind and water erosion.

More Information
  • Full PDF Distribution of glyphosate and aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA) in agricultural topsoils of the European Union, Science of the Total Environment, 15 October 2017.
  • New Study: Glyphosate persists! And European top soils are contaminated with it, pan-europe, October 13, 2017.

Air Quality in Europe 2017

European Environment Agency regular assessments of Europe’s air pollutant emissions, concentrations and their associated impacts on health and the environment

Based upon the latest official data available from countries, this updated 2017 report presents new information, including:

  • updated data on air pollutant emissions and concentrations, and urban population exposure (for the year 2015);
  • updated assessments of total population and ecosystems exposure data, and air quality impacts on health (for the year 2014);
  • a sensitivity analysis of the health impact assessments, considering two different counterfactual concentrations for particulate matter (PM) with a diameter of 2.5 µm or less (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
  • a summary of emissions from agriculture and how they impact on air quality and climate change, which in turn impact on agricultural yields. Selected examples of measures that may mitigate emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases are provided.

Executive summary

Air pollution is a key environmental and social issue and, at the same time, it is a complex problem posing multiple challenges in terms of management and mitigation of harmful pollutants. Air pollutants are emitted from anthropogenic and natural sources; they may be either emitted directly (primary pollutants) or formed in the atmosphere (as secondary pollutants). They have a number of impacts on health, ecosystems, the built environment and the climate; they may be transported or formed over long distances; and they may affect large areas. Effective action to reduce the impacts of air pollution requires a good understanding of its causes, how pollutants are transported and transformed in the atmosphere, and how they affect humans, ecosystems, the climate, and subsequently society and the economy.

The current report presents an updated overview and analysis of air quality in Europe from 2000 to 2015. It reviews the progress made towards meeting the air quality standards established in the two European Ambient Air Quality Directives, and towards the long-term objectives of achieving levels of air pollution that do not lead to unacceptable harm to human health and the environment. It also presents the latest findings and estimates on population and ecosystem exposure to the air pollutants with the greatest impacts and effects on human health and the environment. The evaluation of the status of air quality is based mainly on ambient air measurements, in conjunction with data on anthropogenic emissions and their evolution over time.

Air quality policies have delivered, and continue to deliver, many improvements. Reduced emissions have improved air quality in Europe, and, for a number of pollutants, exceedances of European standards are rare. However, substantial challenges remain and considerable impacts on human health and on the environment persist. A large proportion of European populations and ecosystems are still exposed to air pollution that exceeds European standards and, especially, the World Health Organization (WHO) Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs).

Effective air quality policies require action and cooperation at global, European, national and local levels, which must reach across most economic sectors and engage the public. Holistic solutions must be found that involve technological development and structural and behavioural changes. These will be necessary to achieve human wellbeing and social development, to protect the natural capital and to support economic prosperity, all of which are part of the European Union’s (EU) 2050 vision of living well within the limits of the planet.