Brussels, 18 Sep 2002
EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin launched a pilot project that will measure city inhabitants' exposure to air pollution.
The PEOPLE project (population exposure to air pollutants in Europe) will monitor outdoor and indoor levels of air pollutants, particularly benzene, as well as population exposure in European capitals. The pilot project will be conducted in Brussels and Lisbon, but if successful, is likely to be extended to a number of other cities which have expressed an interest, including Bucharest, Dublin, Helsinki, Krakow, Paris and Rome. The budget for the project is 19,000 euro for each city.
Mr Busquin used statistics to highlight the importance of reducing exposure to pollutants. He cited a recent study which showed that 40,000 people die prematurely every year in France, Austria and Switzerland from air pollution.
Focusing on benzene, he said 'benzene is a cancer causing agent, responsible, among other things for leukaemia. In the case of continuous exposure to the pollutant, it causes six cases of leukaemia in a population of one million inhabitants for every microgram of benzene present.
Diffusive sampling will be used to monitor personal exposure and environmental pollution levels. Up to 200 citizens will be selected in the participating cities. Each one will be provided with a measurement device and requested to expose it to ambient air for specified lengths of time on certain days.
Those selected for the project will travel to work by either private car, public transport of by bike or on foot. The results from these separate groups will be compared with a group that stays at home and a group of smokers. A separate avenue of research will produce a contour map of the cities involved, giving details of pollution levels across the city and in places that we inhabit or visit.
Comparison of data from the two avenues of research will help define whether personal exposure is significantly different from environmental data, in particular that used to define compliance with air quality directives.
As well as extending the project to other cities, the Commission is considering using the same method to measure exposure to other air pollutants. Decisions concerning the extension of the project will be based on an evaluation of the success and relevance of the methodology used in Brussels and Lisbon. If successful, campaigns in other cities are expected to begin in 2003 and 2004.