Brussels, 12 Jun 2003
The European Commissioners responsible for the Environment, Public Health and Research have unveiled a new strategy that will examine the link between health problems and environment, and identify measures to overcome diseases caused by environmental factors.
Introducing the 'European Environment and Health Strategy' in Brussels on 11 June, the Commissioners pointed to the dramatic increase in the number of Europeans suffering from conditions such as asthma. They promised that measures would focus on the most vulnerable and susceptible groups in society, particularly children.
Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström said: 'A healthy environment is not a privilege but a basic human right. The reality, however, is quite different. Many European citizens, and specially children, suffer from illnesses caused by environmental pollution.'
Commissioner for Research, Philippe Busquin, highlighted the role that research will play in the strategy: 'Around 25 to 33 per cent of diseases in industrialised countries are due to environmental factors and we need to continue our efforts to better understand the underlying causes. [...] European research will [...] provide key knowledge to better target and implement action and policy making at EU and national level.'
The strategy is called SCALE, due to the five key elements upon which it is built:
- Science will be used to improve understanding of the often complex link between environment and health. Research will focus on how pollutants move in the environment, how they interact with one another, and what effects these pollutants have on the human body.
- Children will form the focus of the strategy, as they are most vulnerable to environmental hazards.
- Awareness raising initiatives will be a key element in the strategy, focussing on environmental health issues and solutions.
- Legislation, at EU level, will seek to complement national and international initiatives.
- Evaluation of actions taken will be ongoing, and will allow policy makers to address new concerns as they arise.
The European Environment and Health Strategy will be implemented in cycles. The first cycle covers the period 2004 to 2010, and will focus on four main health effects: childhood respiratory diseases, asthma and allergies; neurodevelopment disorders; childhood cancer; and endocrine disrupting effects.
The action to be taken under the strategy will be decided following consultations with experts and stakeholders from all parts of the enlarged EU, with the first scheduled to take place on 11 July in Brussels. Following the consultations, an Action Plan 2004 to 2010 will be produced, which the Commission hopes to adopt in spring 2004.
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