The European Union plans to tighten controls on pollution and doctors are calling for urgent action | European Union

The European Commission has proposed stricter controls on pollutants and chemicals that harm the quality of air, lakes, rivers and seas, but critics have said the plans are too weak and lacking urgency.

As part of a major overhaul of EU pollution control law, the European Commission said it plans to tighten air quality standards, including for one of the most dangerous pollutants, particulate matter. Water standards will also be stricter, with 25 substances added to the control list, such as the PFAS class (also known as “Chemicals Forever”)Subject Bisphenol Aand pesticides including glyphosate and antibiotics.

Under the proposals, pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies will for the first time be required to pay for cleaning their products from wastewater.

The EU’s highest official responsible for European Green DealFrans Timmermans told reporters: “Achieving climate neutrality is about more than reducing greenhouse gas emissions… To get a pollution-free environment in 2050, we need to step up the action today.

“Day by day, we are getting new information about the degree to which public health is at immediate risk from contamination: Children now have microplastic particles in their blood PFAS is found in locally grown fish and vegetables.

We pay the price for pollution with taxes, health and human lives. We pay, and the longer we wait to reduce this pollution, the higher the costs to society,”

The legal proposals will be negotiated and possibly modified by EU environment ministers and MEPs before they enter into force.

The most stringent standards on air quality are the European Union’s response to The latest guidance from the World Health Organization Recommending stricter controls on major air pollutants, in line with growing evidence about harm to health. The World Health Organization has called for greater restrictions on fine particulate matter (PM2.5), coarse particulate matter (PM10), and ozone. nitrogen dioxidesulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide last September, and described air pollution as the biggest environmental threat to health.

Fine particles, much smaller than the width of a human hair, can penetrate people’s lungs and enter the bloodstream, contributing to respiratory and heart disease. in Europe, 300,000 people die prematurely as a result of air pollution, from cardiovascular problems, asthma and lung cancer, while many more live with these diseases. More than 96% of the European Union’s urban population lives in areas where fine particles exceed World Health Organization guidelines, according to the European Environment Agency.

Under EU proposals, the annual fine particulate matter (PM2.5) limit will be more than halved to 10 μg/m3 in 2030, down from the current 25 μg/m.3but less than the WHO recommendation of 5 mcg/m3.

According to the commission’s impact assessment, the policy will improve air quality across the continent by 2030, including in large swathes of the southeast and central UK, assuming British air quality standards remain unchanged.

However, the Health and Environment Alliance (Heal), an umbrella of health NGOs and public health experts, said the revision of the ambient air quality directive failed “to address the urgent need to act to rapidly reduce the health burden”.

Dr Christian Keijzer, Chair of the Standing Committee of European Physicians, a member of the Heal programme, said: “EU air quality standards must be updated by 2030 at the latest. Indeed, European clinicians consider it very urgent that we recommend full harmonization with regulated guidelines. Global health faster by 2025.”

Bass Ecot A member of the European Parliament and vice-chairman of the European Parliament’s environment committee said the committee’s air quality plans were insufficient. “While the World Health Organization and the European Environment Agency are sounding health alarm bells, the Commission is proposing lax air quality standards that are far below what is considered healthy.

“The commission’s failure to act on air pollution undermines the Green Deal and represents a concession to companies and countries pushing for weaker environmental goals,” he said, adding that this would lead to softer emissions rules on new vehicles.

Responding to the criticism, EU Environment Commissioner Virginia Sinkevius said the commission’s interim target for 2030 took into account what was technically feasible, as well as social and economic considerations. He added that the committee had set a “clear path to a complete zero pollution target in line with science at the latest by 2050…as soon as new technological and policy developments allow us.”

EU officials have also promised to make it easier for people with health problems as a result of pollution to get justice, while member states will be empowered to impose more “deterrent” fines on polluters.

But one NGO said the commission had failed to ensure an effective enforcement mechanism, calling the air quality proposal a major missed opportunity. “Stricter legal restrictions may amount to more hype than sting if there is no way to enforce them,” said Ugo Tade, head of clean air at legal charity ClientEarth.

The commission also wants lakes and rivers to be cleaner: It is proposing stricter controls on 16 pollutants and will add 25 to its list of restricted substances, including PFAS, a category that spans more than 4,700 “forever chemicals” widely used in packaging, Non-stick pans and TextilesCosmetics and electronic devices. These synthetic substances accumulate in humans and the environment, and have been linked to liver damage, thyroid disease, obesity, fertility problems, and cancer.

In an update to EU wastewater legislation, the treatment industry will also face a requirement to be energy neutral by 2040, which a senior EU official described as a “small revolution in the sector”. Wastewater treatment is responsible for about 1% of energy use in the European Union and officials believe that this sector could use more renewable energy, including biogas generation.

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