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Environment and health strategy

This strategy, also referred to as the SCALE (Science, Children, Awareness, Legal instrument, Evaluation) initiative, is aimed at gaining a better understanding of the complex interactions between the environment and health in order to take action to reduce the impact of environmental factors on human health.

ACT

European environment and health strategy of 11 June 2003 [COM(2003) 338 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

Key elements and implementation of the strategy

The objective of this strategy is to integrate the information on the state of the environment, the ecosystem and human health. The ultimate objective is to establish a framework to help produce a better understanding of the cause-and-effect relationships between the environment and health and to make available the information needed to develop an integrated Community policy. Other objectives of the strategy are to identify and reduce any new health threats caused by environmental factors and to strengthen the Union's capacity for policymaking in this area. As the acronym indicates, the strategy is based on science, focuses on children, aims at raising awareness, uses legal instruments and includes continuous evaluation.

The plan is to implement the strategy incrementally in successive cycles. The first cycle, from 2004 to 2010, will focus on the link between environmental factors and:

  • childhood respiratory diseases, asthma and allergies;
  • neurodevelopmental disorders;
  • childhood cancer;
  • disruption of the endocrine system (glands which secrete hormones).

The strategy will pave the way for a Community information system for assessing the overall impact of the environment on human health and the cause-and-effect links and for developing an integrated policy on the environment and health. In the first cycle three pilot projects will be launched to develop a method for putting in place a European system for integrated environment and health monitoring. These projects will focus on three priority pollutants for which data collection and monitoring are already well underway: dioxins, heavy metals and endocrine disrupters. The possibility of developing a harmonised European bio-monitoring system for children will also be considered during the first cycle.

Other research activities will be undertaken in order to gain a better understanding of environment and health issues.

Additional efforts will be made to reduce exposure to environmental hazards. These will concentrate on air quality, heavy metals, electromagnetic fields and a healthy urban environment in particular.

Implementation of this strategy will demand full stakeholder involvement. The Commission will set up technical working groups plus a consultative group on environment and health. Three regional conferences were planned up to 2004. In spring 2004 a major stakeholder conference was held to define the action plan for 2004-2010, which set out the goals and action for the first cycle as the Commission's contribution to the Fourth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health in Budapest held in June 2004.

Previous activities on environment and health

Hitherto the political responses on environment and health have taken no account of the interaction between the two. Nevertheless, the Union has already put in place legislation on health hazards, such as chemicals, endocrine disrupters, pesticides, air and water pollution, noise, waste, industrial accidents and ionising radiation.

A Community action programme on public health, covering the period 2003-2008, has been under way since 1 January 2003. Other activities are in progress on tobacco control, food safety, electromagnetic fields, radiation protection and health impact assessment.

Research on the environment and health has been included in the European Framework Programmes for research and development activities since 1995.

The Community also has a strategy on health and safety at work.

The Union is participating in international activities such as the European Charter on Environment and Health and the "Healthy Environment for Children" project, both in collaboration with the World Health Organisation. It is also helping with the preparations for the next pan-European Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health, which will be held in Budapest.

RELATED ACTS

Communication of 9June 2004 from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee - "The European Environment & Health Action Plan 2004-2010" [ COM(2004) 416 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

The European Environment & Health Action Plan 2004-2010 is designed to reduce the burden of disease caused by environmental pollution. The added value of the action plan is that it will improve information and understanding and step up coordination between the health, environment and research sectors.

The plan provides for 13 actions geared towards the following objectives:

  • better information on the environment-health link;
  • stepping up research activity in Europe, particularly on the four priority health effects: asthma/allergies, neurodevelopmental disorders, cancer and endocrine disruption;
  • setting up mechanisms to improve risk assessment, as well as a system for early detection of emerging issues such as the effects of climate change on health;
  • drawing conclusions from the improved information and action, via awareness-raising campaigns, better risk communication, and training and educational activities.
Last updated: 28.04.2005
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