In the EU and Norway, traffic noise is the second biggest environmental problem affecting health after air pollution, says a report published on March 30th by the World Health Organization (WHO). HEAL, alongside other environment and health groups, states that this new health evidence highlights the urgency of adopting more stringent EU vehicle noise standards. The European Commission is expected to release a proposal to update the Vehicle Noise Directive 70/157/EEC in June.
The WHO report says that each year Europeans lose at least one million healthy life-years due to disability or disease caused by traffic noise. And that estimate is said to be conservative. The new calculation includes data that measure exposure to traffic noise and its impact on health related to cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment in children, sleep disturbance, tinnitus, and annoyance. "The new figures are worrying but the true impact of noise pollution on health is likely to be much higher”, says Anne Stauffer, HEAL ’s Deputy Director. Read more...
Scientific evidence on the health impacts of environmental noise, from transport and industry is increasing year on year. In 2010, European environment and health ministers signed the Parma Declaration on Environment and Health, committing to, amongst other things, reducing children’s exposure to noise.
This year, HEAL will increase advocacy efforts to ensure the risk to health from noise in the EU is minimised. In March we issued a joint press release (mentioned above), with leading environment NGOs Transport and Environment (T&E) and the European Environment Bureau (EEB). On 25th May, also with T&E and EEB, we are organising a conference on EU noise policy in the EU Economic and Social Committee building in Brussels. The conference entitled Quiet Please: The Future of EU Noise Policy will be a high-level event with representatives from the EU parliament, the Commission, national environment, industry and transport and health experts and NGOs. Panel discussions will provide a platform for some of the leading noise experts and policy makers to discuss the latest science on noise & health, road traffic noise and the future of EU noise policy. Online registration for the conference is now open. In the meantime, if you’re working on issues related to environmental noise or are part of a research project, please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org.
A new study from the United States released on Wednesday, 30 March by the Breast Cancer Fund and the Silent Spring Institute shows that avoiding canned and packaged food can reduce chemical levels in the human body by 50% or more. This finding implies that food contact materials are a major source of people’s exposure to harmful chemicals, such as hormone disruptors known as BPA and DEHP.
HEAL, alongside other public interest organisations, is calling for swifter action by the European Union to eliminate people’s exposure to these chemicals to protect public health. This study confirms the urgent need for a major overhaul of EU food contact materials law because packaging in the US is often the same as that used in the EU. Specifically, the review should address endocrine disruptors and the ‘cocktail effects’ of exposure to several chemicals at the same time. Read more…
During this year’s Pesticides Alternatives Week, HEAL and member organisation Générations Futures helped to create an association of ‘victims’ of occupational pesticide exposure in France. The association, called Phyto-victimes aims to educate the public and health professionals about the impact of pesticides on health, especially that ofo farmers, and calls for preventative policies that protect people and the environment from hazardous pesticides.
The launch event took place in Ruffec, near Poitiers, France on Saturday 19 March. Project initiator and host, Paul Francois is a conventional farmer who was intoxicated by inhalation of an herbicide. The event included a screening of “Notre poison quotidien”, which took place in the presence of the director, Marie-Monique Robin, and was followed by a question and answer session. Read More...
The World Health Organization has put environmental and occupational factors in first place in the primary prevention of cancer as the launch of the Asturias Pledge following a meeting in Spain shows.
The Pledge represents an important milestone in developing international consensus on the primary prevention of cancer - stopping cancer before it starts by eliminating harmful exposures. Immediately prior to the meeting, HEAL issued a briefing on the role of environmental pollution in cancer causation. Read more…
In the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan a nuclear tragedy is unfolding, its implications yet to be determined. HEAL’s US partner the Collaborative and Environment and Health (CHE) organised a partnership call on the health impacts of radiation. The call brought together health professionals from around the world to ask: "What are the primary risks to human health, of both acute high-level and lower-level exposures? Are there scientifically valid strategies for minimising harm in those exposed? And how might such disasters best be avoided in the future? The call featured leading experts Arjun Makhijani, PhD, President of The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and Ira Helfand, MD, a past president of Physicians for Social Responsibility. The CHE website has a very useful database of resources on radiation and health. Also of interest is a Joint Statement from the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, the American Thyroid Association, The Endocrine Society and the Society of Nuclear Medicine .
HEAL welcomes the launch of the International EMF Alliance (IEMFA) which took place in February 2011. It works to protect public health from the dangers of electro-magnetic fields (EMFs). The Alliance has published, along with a consortium of international scientists, a report and scientific Consensus Statement urging global governments to adopt significantly lower human exposure standards for electromagnetic fields. The scientists recommend specific exposure limits for different frequency fields, including for microwaves, those used in wireless communications, and for ELF electric fields and magnetic fields. Read more…
In March, Initiativ Liewensufank, HEAL member from Luxembourg, wrote letters to all municipalities asking them to make their public spaces, from parks to school play-areas, pesticide-free. The letters came as part of this year’s Week for Pesticide Alternatives. In Luxembourg, there are already ten municipalities that are pesticide free; we hope that the others will follow suit. HEAL monitors information on pesticide-free public spaces and provides the information on our Sick of Pesticides campaign website.
Also as part of the Week for Pesticide Alternatives, Initiativ Liewensufank screened the new documentary, ‘Our Daily Poison’ by Marie-Monique Robin. The film, about the risks to health and the environment from pesticides and chemicals, was released this month in France and made waves across the media. Read more... .
This spring, HEAL member, Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF) , are expanding their project in France that aims to educate parents on how to create safer indoor environments for their children. The ‘Nesting Project’ will train a group of eight new workshop facilitators, who will then be qualified to organise more Nesting workshops across France for new parents. The Nesting project is a Europe-wide initiative and the website is available in eight languages. The Nesting workshops are interactive and demonstrate to parents how to improve the indoor environment in their home, including by reducing indoor pollution generated by furniture, cosmetics products, toys, etc. Read more...
HEAL member, the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) is calling for health equity across the EU. On 14 April, as part of the EPHA Annual General Assembly, EPHA will be presenting the Charter for Health Equity to EU Commissioner John Dalli.
With the Charter for Health Equity, EPHA aims to bring civil society together to call for immediate action and to ensure that the issue is kept on the agenda. The social determinants of health - such as environment, climate and food - all have huge potential to reduce health inequalities and benefit the whole society. Despite the EU’s growing focus on health inequalities, the issue remains very much in the domain of the health community and concrete EU actions are yet to be defined. HEAL has signed the charter, alongside almost 90 international, European and national organisations working on gender, youth, environment, agriculture and of course health alongside a host of environment, social and health groups. There is still the opportunity to sign here.
HEAL member, the Cultural Association of Pediatrics (Acp) Italy, has launched a new project to promote children’s’ and environment and health across 120 kindergartens of 64 municipalities in Padua province of Italy. The campaign, funded by UNESCO and supported by in collaboration with Padua Province, Holly and Marna, who are IT Mom correspondents from Better TV, and partners aims to raise awareness amongst children and parents of environment and health hazards, and to provide solutions to everyday problems.
In different parts of Padua, teachers have been trained by health professionals about the links between environment and children’s health, and given tools to aid understanding and avoid potential health hazards. One such tool is a set of books which highlights positive actions that children can take to create a healthier environment. The books cover topics such as energy and water savings, waste and recycling, and sustainable transport. Read more...
Chemical Watch featured our call for halving exposure to carcinogens by 2020 made at the WHO conference in Asturias, Spain on reducing environmental and occupational cancer. Two important scientific reviews also helped put HEAL in the media in March: one from the EU-funded Aphekom project on air quality and the other the WHO burden of disease from noise. Our climate change report was again in the news in Belgium, this time in the leading daily, Le Soir. For a complete overview of HEAL’s media coverage, please visit the website.
6th April, 2011. Mini symposium, “REACH, New chemistry and the consumer” organised by Women in Europe for a Common Future, at the Dutch Industrial and Employers Federation, The Hague. Twice a year, government, industry, business and civil society meet to discuss the REACH chemicals legislation in the EU. WECF has been asked to set the Agenda for the mini symposium, asking the questions: What about innovation? What should we do about information for the wider public? Are we healthier with REACH? For more information go to www.wecf.eu.
12 -13th April, 2011. Third Paris Appeal Congress, UNESCO, 125 avenue de Suffren, 75015 Paris. This year’s focus will be on Children’s health and the environment. The congress will be followed by a three-day international academic intensive course of Environmental Medicine, 14 - 15 - 16 April 2011. Places are filling up quickly, we recommend registering as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.
28th April, 2011, Endocrine Disruptors and Biodiversity Conference, National Museum of Natural History, Paris. The conference is organised by HEAL member Réseau Environnement Santé(RES) and WWF. The conference marks the 20 years since the ‘Wingspread Statement’ – a scientific consensus statement, convened by Dr. Theo Colburn (founder of the Endocrine Disrupter Exchange TEDx) and 21 international scientists from 15 different disciplines, which asserted the possibility of endocrine disruption by human-made compounds in our environment. The conference is aimed at scientists, policy and the institutional actors and civil society. Register here.
7 – 8th May, 2011. Nanotechonology: Impact on health benefits and risks, Kolping-Akademie, Kolpingplatz 1, 97070 Würzburg. The event will be organised by European Academy for Environmental Medicine e. V. (EUROPAEM). EUROPAEM stresses the need for primary prevention strategies in coping with the impact of nanotechnology;, strategies that are missing at present. The congress will hear from a host of international experts, and will seek to highlight the breadth of knowledge in this area.
25th May, 2011. Quiet Please: The Future of EU Noise Policy. As part of HEAL’s expanding work on noise pollution and health, we will be co-organising a conference on EU noise policy with two leading European environmental groups, Transport & Environment, and the European Environmental Bureau. The conference will take place in the afternoon of Wednesday, 25 May at the EU Economic and Social Committee in Brussels. Registration is now open.
Written on 1 April 2011.
Genon Jensen, Executive Director, tel.: 0032 2 234 3641
Anne Stauffer, Deputy Director, tel: 0032 2 234 3643