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27 November 2023
PREVENT, - Air Quality

EFA travelled to  Rotterdam (the Netherlands), to bring to the EU Clean Air Forum the perspective of allergy, asthma and COPD patients, at a crucial moment of the EU negotiations towards stricter legislation of the air pollution levels affecting the population in Europe.

In November, the European Commission organised the fourth EU Clean Air Forum. EFA was represented by Board Member Christine Strous and Senior Policy Advisor Panagiotis Chaslaridis brought to the discussions the perspective of allergy, asthma and COPD patients, a vulnerable part of the population disproportionately affected by air pollution, whether indoors or outdoors.


EFA Board Member Christine Strous and Senior Policy Advisor Panagiotis Chaslaridis at EU Clean Air Forum 2023

The high-level speaker line-up discussed an interesting set of clean air topics, including the interlinks of air pollution with climate change and inequality; industrial perspectives (maritime and transport emissions); enablers for clean air (skills and jobs); and population-based aspects (healthy lifestyles and public information). Importantly, the forum took place right when the European Parliament and the Council started their negotiations for the revision of the EU Ambient Air Quality Directives (AAQDs).

This fourth forum took place in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, bringing together stakeholders working on air quality matters, including competent national authorities, the Commission, industry, the scientific community and civil society including EFA, and our partners the European Respiratory Society (ERS) and the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL).

Clean air policies: What are patients asking for?

Through interventions and questions to the various panels, EFA inquired the panellists about the key issues for allergy, asthma and COPD patients. Evidence on the health effects of air pollution is increasing, and therefore the revised framework will have to reflect an urgency to act, rather including laws that allow for exemptions, derogations and loopholes that will make its enforcement ineffective and unequal across Europe.

EFA noted with disappointment that full alignment with WHO science-based guidelines is not a legislative option for the Council. It means that the upcoming EU legislation will be yet far from protecting Europeans from air pollution. EFA stressed the need to speed up the ambition to ensure safe air for everyone as fast as possible.

A key recurring issue was ensuring clear, relevant and timely air quality information to the population. While the EU is proposing to establish an air quality index, EFA considers there is a need for more targeted information, including health advice and insights on potential symptoms due to exposure to air pollution. Therefore, we conveyed that national air quality indices are instrumental in harmonising today’s patchwork of air quality information across Europe, while it is important that they are based on the latest WHO guidelines (2021) and that they addressed to the people that need them.

Finally, we discussed the overlooked aspect of indoor air quality, which is directly linked with the levels of ambient (outdoor) pollution, but presents specificities that can even make it more dangerous to health. Like with outdoor air, it is paramount that people are informed about indoor pollution and ventilation as well, to act accordingly minimising their exposure to dangerous pollutants in closed spaces.

#KeepBreathing campaign 

As air quality is first and foremost a matter of prevention, EFA brought its joint campaign #KeepBreathing to the attention of the participants in the EU Clean Air Forum.  Key policymakers such as MEP Petros Kokkalis, shadow rapporteur for the revision of the AAQD for the Left; and Marieke Schouten, Member of the Committee of the Regions responsible for the EU Zero Pollution Stakeholder Platform, showed their support to lung health. 

More information about the EU Clean Air Forum is available on the Commission website.