Field: Dissemination of information
Global Technical function: Managing, Sensing
Technical Function Unit: Disseminating, Identifying
Geographic Area: Netherlands


ESCAPE is a project that aims to quantify the health impacts of air pollution and reduce the uncertainty of its effect on conditions such as 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. 

Studies have indicated that current levels of air pollution have a broad range of health effects on people of all ages. The effects of pollution are noted in people with asthma, as they generally suffer an increased amount of symptoms and attacks, as the pollution level rises. People with cardiovascular disease or lung disease are also susceptible to an increase in symptoms or attacks, corresponding to the level of ambient pollution. However, the health community currently lacks a clear study on the long-term effects of ambient air pollution on the development of chronic diseases such as asthma, atherosclerosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cancer, as these conditions develop over time. Until now, this type study has not been carried out in the greater European region. Currently available estimates on the health impact of especially fine particles were primarily based on exposure response relationship data from North America. This is the first unified study of its kind, incorporating air pollution monitoring from more than 30 populations. This project is a collaboration of more than 30 European cohort studies, including some 900,000 subjects.

The ESCAPE project is a response to the FP7 ENV-HEALTH call, and takes place from June 2008 through November 2012. The project general objective is to investigate the long term effects of air pollution on human health in Europe. The project coordinator is the Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences at Utrecht Universiteit, located in the Netherlands.

ESCAPE focuses on analysing levels and effects of pollution, specifically airborne particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, in different areas: within-city, within-area, and within-country. The four main objectives of the project are: to develop a flexible methodology for assessing long-term population exposure to air pollution focused primarily on fine particles, particle composition and nitrogen oxides; to apply the exposure assessment methodology on existing cohort studies of mortality and chronic disease in Europe that have been selected considering their potential to quantify relationships between long-term exposure and health response precisely; specifically, to investigate exposure-response relationships and thresholds for (a) adverse perinatal health outcomes, and development of diseases such as asthma in children; (b) respiratory disease endpoints in adults; (c) cardiovascular disease endpoints in adults; (d) all-cause and cause-specific mortality, and cancer incidence; to develop a database for quantitative estimates of the health impacts of long-term exposure to air pollution for all of these health endpoints for the European population

The consortium is currently working towards monitoring, analysing and compiling data. Results will be available towards the end of the project period, in the Fall of 2012, so by the moment the project reaches a 3 level in the TRL scale. The objective is to create a new and improved epidemiological and risk assessment data, which will be publicly available to stimulate evidence-based actions by key policy makers. Specific policies include Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution, Thematic Strategy on Urban Environment, and the Environment and Health Action Plan.

the project is also developing harmonised air monitoring protocols to make them available to local investigators that were not yet involved in the consortium. The study’s key results dissemination of information method is releasing papers to peer-viewed journals, and developing a policy implications report as  well as patient information materials. The following key organisations have committed to participating in the project, particularly in the disseminating activities: Health & Environment Alliance (HEAL), European Respiratory Society, and the World Health Organisation.