The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have published a report, titled “Economic cost of the health impact of air pollution in Europe: Clean air, health and wealth,” which assesses the economic burden of deaths and diseases resulting from outdoor and indoor air pollution in region.
According to the report, in 2010, air pollution in WHO European Region cost US$1.575 trillion in premature deaths and diseases, which is nearly equivalent to one-tenth of the EU’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2013.
The report indicates that motorized road transport, along with other sectors such as household fuel combustion, agriculture, and industrial coal burning, are “of special concern” in terms of the health impact of air pollution and the consequent societal costs.
The study shows that the road transport sector bears a 50% responsibility (directly or indirectly) for the premature deaths from ambient particulate matter pollution (APMP) in the WHO European Region in 2010, and a 50% responsibility (direct or indirectly) for the economic cost related to such premature deaths. The report calls for “serious reflection on the policy response to air pollution,” paying particular attention to road transport and the household fuel combustion sectors, of which their combined impacts account for the majority of costs.
The study was published as over 200 representatives from European countries, international organizations and civil society gathered in Haifa, Israel, from 28-30 April 2015, for a task force mid-term review of the WHO’s European Environment and Health Process (EHP).
According to another report, titled “Improving environment and health in Europe: how far have we gotten?” and published by WHO and UNECE, one in four Europeans falls ill or dies prematurely from environmental pollution. Data from several priority areas, including water and sanitation, air quality, day-to-day surroundings of children’s lives, chemicals and asbestos, climate change and health inequalities, all point towards uneven progress.
The report indicates that fossil fuel combustion, overreliance on motorized transport, and poorly designed cities are the key contributing factors to not only climate change problems but the world’s fastest growing public health problems as well. Sustainable mobility management and public transport can address to these problems and in particularly, active transport, such as cycling and walking, is effective in enabling physical activity in all settings and can contribute to the time-bound goal of providing healthy and safe physical environments for children in their daily life by 2020.