27 March 2019
Asthma , COPD, Allergy
- Air Quality, - Healthcare

On March 13th, the European Parliament plenary adopted the motion for a resolution ‘Clean Air for All: A Europe that Protects’, an initiative put forward by seven Members of the European Parliament  from the UK, Poland, Italy and the Netherlands. The motion was endorsed with 446 votes in favour, 146 against and 79 abstentions.

Air-pollution may be worse indoors than outdoors 

The resolution specifically refers to indoor air pollution, alongside main polluting sectors such as transport, energy, and agriculture. It also includes specific chapters on financing clean air and on air pollution science, monitoring and research, as they are crucial to understand the scope of the exposure and tackle it.

With this resolution, the European Parliament underlines the fact that indoor air can sometimes be significantly more polluted than outdoor. 

It particularly calls on Member States “to take a comprehensive and all-inclusive approach to air pollution, including indoor air pollution, taking into account the various areas involved and affected, such as farming and food production systems, nature conservation, climate change, energy efficiency, mobility and urban planning, and to prioritise pollution mitigation approaches which have co-benefits in other domains”.

While the European Parliament is not yet asking for an air quality strategy, with these measures and the principles and guidelines of the World Health Organization on air quality, the institution is making a point on the need to have a cross-sector approach to reduce air pollution.

EFA welcomes proposal for compulsory indoor air quality certificate

EFA is delighted about the European Parliament proposal for a compulsory indoor air quality certificate for all new and renovated buildings (art. 61). The certificate is proposed to be based on the EN 16798-1 standard as well as the WHO indoor air quality guidelines.

The establishment of an indoor air quality certificate has been part of EFA’s core advocacy to live in uncompromising environments, as a measure to calculate, assess and classify indoor air quality based on the presence of pollutants and the environmental conditions affecting them.

While the certificate proposal was retained during the negotiations of the revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, we are thrilled that Members of the European Parliament have considered as valid the importance not only of measuring, but also communicating about the air quality people breathe indoors.

Clean air resolution fails to address a big part of air pollution

However, the resolution lacks reference to the need to ban smoking both indoors and outdoors, as the only effective measure to protect citizens from exposure to second-hand smoke. Regarding research on small particles, the effects of the particle cocktail on human health should have equally been taken into account.

Although well tooled on the transport, energy and agriculture sector, EFA notices that the adopted resolution fails to address key aspects of urban planning such as heating and ventilation in buildings, and emissions from construction equipment.

Moreover, this resolution follows the incompletion of existing EU air quality legislation that completely neglects the monitoring and information about airborne allergenic pollen. Pollen is an allergen of natural origin but its presence and aggressiveness is impacted by climate change and intensive agriculture.

Finally, EFA also notes that public access to readily available information on air quality needs to be underpinned on more ambitious statements and commitments to action for the protection of citizens’ health.

Step in the right direction but need for an EU strategy on air quality

At EFA, we consider the adoption of the ‘Clean Air for All’ motion for a resolution as a step in the right direction and we thank the European Parliament for adding up to the ever wider EU-level discussion on indoor air quality.

However, it has also served as a reminder that the EU has to reflect further on key aspects of the air quality discussion. Our nose and lungs do not distinguish between air pollution from agriculture or transport, pollen or energy. Allergy and airways diseases therefore, need a comprehensive approach on air quality to be really protected and to prevent their disease from worsening.

Harmful effects of indoor and outdoor air pollution on the health of people, and in particular those living with respiratory disease, needs to be fully acknowledged. EFA is therefore asking for an EU strategy on air quality, that looks to the air and the people affected first, to then explore how to better regulate among emitting sectors.

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The EFA Team