Retired WHO expert honoured with environmental epidemiology award

Swiss TPH/Joachim Pelikan

“We, the environmental epidemiologists of the world, are the canaries, capable of giving warning of impending environmental disaster in time for remedial steps to be taken. Fortunately, our fate is not to have to die as the unfortunate canaries of the coal miners did, but to sing, to call out in clear tones the nature and type of impending health danger that threatens.”

John Goldsmith

Michal Krzyzanowski, former Head of the WHO European Centre for Environment and Health in Bonn, Germany, was honoured today with the John Goldsmith Award for his outstanding contribution to environmental epidemiology.

“Epidemiologists fulfil their role as canaries as in John Goldsmith’s words. This is the nature of the work I have been doing with WHO for over 20 years: reviewing evidence on health risks relating to air pollution and offering the conclusions to those in Europe who must protect people’s health,” said Michal Krzyzanowski. “This is as much an award to WHO for its role in environment and health as to me personally, and I am grateful for receiving it today.”

The award was made at Environment and Health – Bridging South, North, East and West, the first-ever joint conference of three leading scientific societies dedicated to improving public health: the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE), the International Society of Exposure Science (ISES) and the International Society of Indoor Air Quality (ISIAQ).

The John Goldsmith Memorial lecture

Michal Krzyzanowski also gave the John Goldsmith Memorial lecture at the conference, focusing on the progress in knowledge on the causal links between environmental factors and health, based on years of research.

Thanks to work on air pollution led by Dr Krzyzanowski, scientific knowledge has developed, and global WHO guidelines on air quality have been updated several times over two decades, thereby improving public health protection. 

After retiring from WHO/Europe in August 2012, Michal Krzyzanowski was offered the honorary position of Visiting Professor at the Environmental Research Group at King’s College London, and is still involved in WHO projects on air quality and health.

Environment and Health – Bridging South, North, East and West

The conference held on 19–23 August 2013, gathered more than 1700 participants from over 70 countries in Basel, Switzerland, to discuss the latest in environmental and health science and report evidence for policies that protect and foster the health of people and the ecosystem.

WHO/Europe also took part in the conference, presenting key results of Europe-wide research initiatives in the areas of air pollution, climate change, chemicals and health impact assessment. Generating evidence-based information is central to the work of the WHO European Centre for Environment and Health, and cooperation with the conference partners enhances work on new environmental risks and their health impacts, as well as providing a solid ground from which to implement the environmental commitments made by European governments in the Parma Declaration.