19 October, 2023
The European Respiratory Society (ERS) and several other health-focused organisations have signed a joint letter to EU environment ministers calling for clean air to prevent disease and save lives, ahead of the EU Environment Council vote on the revision of the EU Ambient Air Quality Directive (AAQD).
In the joint letter, ERS and partner organisations urge ministers to step up on the Commission’s proposal to reduce ill-health and health costs “swiftly and significantly”, describing the update of the EU’s clean air standards as a ‘unique and not-to-be-missed opportunity’ to prevent premature death and reduce the health burden from chronic diseases.
The letter follows a European Parliament vote in September to revise the AAQD and strengthen legally binding limit values on air pollution – an important step in the right direction towards clean air for all.
In the joint letter, the health group makes three key demands for ministers:
- Demonstrate their political will by increasing the level of ambition
- Protect vulnerable groups to protect all
- Ensure the most health-protective enabling framework
It also encourages ministers to “follow concerns from people across the EU and science” and go beyond the ambition of the September 2023 European Parliament position by adopting a date of 2030 to ensure full alignment of EU clean air standards with WHO guidelines.
The AAQD impact assessment demonstrates that the benefits of fully aligning the EU’s air quality standards by 2030 would by far outweigh the costs. These costs include:
- In the WHO European Region, air pollution is estimated to cause 33 percent of new cases of childhood asthma, 17 percent of all lung cancer cases, 12 percent of all ischemic heart disease, 11 percent of all strokes and three percent of all COPD cases.
- Air pollution costs up to €853 billion each year for the EU, including health costs related to premature death and diseases from air pollution, productivity losses due to workdays lost and reduction in workers’ capacity, productivity, crop yield losses and more.