Zero Pollution and the European Green Deal

Written by the ATHLETE project, on behalf of the European Human Exposome Network

Understanding the Human Exposome’s effect on our health can aid the EU in reaching its Zero Pollution ambition.

Pollution harms our health and knows no borders. It affects everybody – through the air we breathe, the water we drink, the products we buy and the environment we work and live in. The totality of exposures over a lifetime, from conception to adulthood, is called the Human Exposome.

With the European Green Deal, the European Union has taken a firm stand to protect citizens and the environment against pollution. One of its main actions is the EU Action Plan “Towards a Zero Pollution for Air, Water and Soil”, which aims to create a toxic-free environment across the EU by preventing and reversing pollution from air, water, soil, and consumer products, among others. The European Union envisions a world where, by 2050, pollution is reduced to levels that are no longer harmful to human health and ecosystems by setting targets and commitments to take action.

This is a potential game changer for European citizens and their health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 24% of all global deaths are linked to the environment, which is roughly 13.7 million deaths a year. Pollution remains the largest environmental cause of multiple mental and physical diseases and of premature deaths, especially among children, people with certain medical conditions and disabilities, the elderly, as well as those living in poorer socio-economic conditions.

To truly build a European Union with zero pollution, all possible routes of exposure should be taken into consideration, along with all environmental, social and economic factors. Up until now, the health implications of our exposure to different forms of pollution were measured separately. By not looking at the combined cocktail of environmental pollutants we come across daily, a major piece is left out of the equation. To match the complexity of the environment and to make full use of the sweep of biomedical technology that is available today, the Human Exposome has been proposed to encompass the totality of environmental exposures over a lifetime. It provides a fundamental shift in how we study the environment and health.

To find out more about how the European Human Exposome Network can help, read the rest of the blog here.