Pollution in European cities: Commissioner Busquin welcomes the success of PEOPLE project's first day

October 24, 2002

Brussels, 22 October 2002

Today at 20.00 hrs. the first stage of the European Commission-funded PEOPLE (Population Exposure to Air Pollutants in Europe - see also IP/02/1310 ) project will come to an end: since 8.00 this morning 130 volunteers in Brussels and 200 in Lisbon have been wearing a pollution detector (for a maximum of 12 hours in shifts).

"I am pleased with the smooth kick-off of this project", said EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. "We know that 70 to 80% of pollution comes from road traffic. With the PEOPLE project we are measuring more precisely how much benzene there is in the air we breathe. Benzene is a carcinogenic substance mostly produced by traffic and tobacco smoking.

Volunteers are monitoring 50 outdoor sites (street, parks, metro stations etc) and 50 indoor sites (schools, shops, offices, bars, etc) in each city. The final results will be presented in February 2003."

"Despite tough EU emissions standards, benzene still represents a high-risk pollution factor in our cities", said Commissioner Busquin. "That is why research has to check the situation on the ground and help enforce legislation.

Projects like PEOPLE provide decision-makers, environmental and health professionals, and the general public with a comprehensive snapshot of air pollution in EU cities and the impact on public health. This will help policy makers fine-tune traffic and transport policies, and enable citizens to make informed choices on personal and health issues, such as driving to work or smoking, to limit their exposure."

The PEOPLE Project supports forthcoming EU legislation on benzene. It uses a new sampler to detect benzene levels over short periods of time. Benzene is also a tracer for other pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile hydrocarbons and particulate matter produced by traffic. Benzene monitoring will therefore indicate exposure to other pollutants. During the Spring the Commission will conduct a similar experiment in Bucharest, Budapest and Madrid. This will be followed by Belgrade, Berlin, Dublin, Ljubljana, Paris, Rome and Vienna later in 2003.

For more information please visit:


DN: IP/02/1540 Date: 23/10/2002

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