European citizens are concerned about the environment they live in, about their health and about their quality of life. Six out of ten European citizens consider that it is "very" or "fairly likely" that environmental pollution will damage their health and that the European Union is not doing enough. European citizens also indicated that the environment is a driving force for innovation, and that environmental protection policies are incentives to progress rather than obstacles to economic performance.
In order to address these concerns, the Commission has adopted the European Environment & Health Strategy in June 2003. This Strategy had the ultimate objectives to reduce the disease burden caused by environmental factors in the EU, to identify and to prevent new health threats caused by environmental factors and to strengthen EU capacity for policymaking in this area. The Strategy was followed up by the European Environment and Health Action Plan 2004-2010, which emphasised the need to develop a good information base, including a coordinated approach to human biomonitoring, and the necessity to strengthen research on environment and health with the aim to make the assessment of the environmental impact on human health more efficient. Both the Strategy and the Action Plan got the support from the other EU institutions.
The Action Plan is based on three main themes: firstly, improving the information chain by developing integrated environment and health dissemination of information to understand the links between sources of pollutants and health effects; secondly, filling the knowledge gap by strengthening research on environment and health and identifying emerging issues; thirdly, reviewing policies and improving communication by developing awareness raising, risk communication, training and education to give citizens the information they need to make better health choices, and to make sure that professionals in each field are alert to environment and health interactions.
Each main theme covers a variety of actions. They have been implemented through existing initiatives and programmes which have allocated resources, notably the Public Health Programme and the Sixth and Seventh Framework Programmes for Research. Through data analysing, ESCAPE project aims at quantifying the health impacts of air pollution in order to reduce the uncertainty of its effect on cancer, respiratory diseases, perinatal conditions, child asthma, etc. The consortium has been working towards identifying and investigating the long-term effects on human health, as it relates to exposure to air pollution in Europe. The project consists of an air pollution monitoring, specifically airborne particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, in different areas.
The project is aligned with the strategy of European Commission. In 2007, the mid-term review of the action plan stated that the aims for 2007-2010 were to study causes of environment-related diseases and to investigate long-term health impacts of exposure to environmental stressors.
European Commission, "Mid Term Review of the European Environment and Health Action Plan 2004-2010" COM(2007) 314 final