Air quality

Evidence shows that air pollution at current levels in European cities is responsible for a significant burden of deaths, hospital admissions and exacerbation of symptoms. WHO/Europe works to make sure that the available evidence on the health risks of air pollution is used in public debate and in policy-making.

The air we breathe contains emissions from motor vehicles, industry, heating and commercial sources, as well as tobacco smoke and household fuels. Air pollution harms human health, particularly in those already vulnerable because of their age or existing health problems.

Evidence shows that air pollution at current levels in European cities is responsible for a significant burden of deaths, hospital admissions and exacerbation of symptoms, especially for cardiorespiratory disease. Exposure to air pollutants is largely beyond individuals’ control and requires action by public authorities at the national, regional and even international levels.

While the hazardous properties of many common pollutants are still under intensive research, evidence-based policies demonstrate that health protection is possible and effective. For example, phasing out leaded petrol decreases blood lead levels in children and reduces their risk for impaired neurobehavioural development. Controlling air pollution, both indoor and outdoor, can significantly prevent diseases.

WHO/Europe works to make sure that the available evidence on the health risks of air pollution is used in public debate and in policy-making.