European COPD Coalition
(source: European Commission)

Air pollution ParisAir pollution: Commission warns GERMANY, FRANCE, SPAIN, ITALY and the UNITED KINGDOM of continued air pollution breaches

15 February 2017

The European Commission sends final warnings to Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom for failing to address repeated breaches of air pollution limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2). NO2 pollution is a serious health risk. Most emissions result from road traffic. The European Commission urges these 5 Member States to take action to ensure good air quality and safeguard public health. More than 400 000 citizens die prematurely in the EU each year as a result of poor air quality. Millions more suffer from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases caused by air pollution. Persistently high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) caused almost 70 000 premature deaths in Europe in 2013, which was almost three times the number of deaths by road traffic accidents in the same year. EU legislation on ambient air quality (Directive 2008/50/EC) sets limit values for air pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide. In case such limit values are exceeded, Member States are required to adopt and implement air quality plans that set out appropriate measures to bring this situation to an end as soon as possible. Today’s reasoned opinion concerns persistent exceeding of NO2 limit values in: Germany (28 air quality zones, including Berlin, Munich, Hamburg and Köln); France (19 air quality zones, among them Paris, Marseille and Lyon); The United Kingdom (16 air quality zones, among them London, Birmingham, Leeds, and Glasgow); Italy (12 air quality zones, including Rome, Milan and Turin); Spain (3 air quality zones, one being Madrid and two covering Barcelona). While it is up to the Member State authorities to choose the appropriate measures to address exceeding NO2 limits, much more effort is necessary at local, regional and national levels to meet the obligations of EU rules and safeguard public health. If Member States fail to act within two months, the Commission may decide to take the matter to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Full press release

Photo credit: creative commons, Clément Costa

4 logosJoint NGO Submission to the public consultation on the Real-Driving Emissions in the EURO 6 regulation on emissions from light passenger and commercial vehicles

The European COPD Coalition (ECC), the European Respiratory Society (ERS), the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) and the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) welcome the European Commission’s proposal on the 3rd Real driving emissions (RDE) package and call on the national experts in the Technical Committee of Motor Vehicles (TCMV) to endorse it in its entirety on 20 December 2016. The proposal is a timely step to address the growing particulate number (PN) emissions from the new generation of petrol vehicles on Europe’s roads which emit many more particles than the prescribed Euro 6 limit in real-world driving conditions.

As a result, these vehicles contribute to what is already a grave public health emergency, as the latest figures by the European Environment Agency (EEA) show that air pollutant emissions contribute to 467,000 premature deaths across the EU each year(1). Moreover, a major report launched by the Royal College of Physicians earlier this year examined the impact of exposure to air pollution across the entire life course and one of its Recommendations for Action was a strengthening of emissions testing for cars (2).

Air pollution in Paris : Eiffel tower through a haze of pollution in ParisMembers of the European Parliament (MEPs) meeting in plenary session have approved on 23rd of November new EU-wide air pollution rules, after it was adopted in July in the EP committees. The updated National Emission Ceilings (NEC) Directive sets air pollution limits that are expected to halve the health impact of air pollution by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.

According to environmental experts and associations, this is no sufficient: even after full implementation of the directive in 2030, around 250,000 Europeans are still likely to die prematurely because of air pollution every year.

(image credit: AFP)

This is due to:

  • The set targets are not ambitious enough
  • Member States agreed to provide themselves “get-out-of-jail” cards with “flexibilities” that will allow them in case of dry summer or cold winter not to respect the limits. They will also be able to escape responsibility in case emissions from one sector turn out to be greater than expected, as already happened with dieselgate (source: EEB).
  • No caps for methane. The European Parliament and Commission wanted to limit methane as it contributes to ground level ozone which is harmful to human health, the Member States opposed and obtained to exclude methane from this Directive.

It is important to note that in the case of NEC, the European Commission and Parliament demonstrated much higher ambitious and took a stronger stance on air quality than Member States, that succeeded in watering down the original proposals. They have delayed improved health conditions for EU citizens, allowing air pollution to remain too high to effectively decrease respiratory diseases.

We count on national authorities to go beyond the Directive targets and means of action to improve the lives of millions suffering from respiratory diseases and COPD in particular, and to prevent more cases of ill-health.

More information.

OECD_logo_new.svgThe 2016 edition of the yearly “Health at a Glance Europe 2016” report includes for the first time a long section on COPD.


(image/logo source: OECD)

The European COPD Coalition welcomes the initiative from the OECD and the European Commission to share greater information on chronic respiratory diseases in this year’s Health at a Glance, and in particular on COPD*, reporting on mortality, COPD in primary and secondary care, prevalence and incidence, as well as on the major risk factors and determinants of health, for respiratory diseases, including air quality**.

ECC applauds the recommendations made in this report on the role of primary care for COPD treatment and management, and in particular in consideration of avoidable hospital admissions (page 128).

We regret however, that the methodology to collect the data presented in this report (patients self-report their disease, via interviews and surveys), does not allow to reflect the reality of COPD, as the OECD figures do not correspond to that presented in the vast majority of national and pan-European studies – all reporting much higher prevalence, incidence and mortality than what this report mentions. It is also regrettable that this document omits to present COPD as an important co-morbidity, as it would explain the relatively modest mortality rate. We also note that the chapter on Physical Activity focuses only on the matter as a risk factor (lack of physical activity), and does not mention its role as a means to improve ill-health, in the case, for instance of COPD (page 106).

Mise en page 1World COPD Day 2016, take care of your lungs

Research finds that as many as 66 million [1]  people in European region may be living with COPD – yet, very few people have ever heard of this disease.
COPD is a very serious chronic lung disease, the umbrella name for emphysema and chronic bronchitis. COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and is characterised by the production of a large amount of mucus (or phlegm), wheezing, fatigue and breathlessness. It is mainly caused by smoking, but being exposed to dust, fumes or poor air quality, and a rare form of gene deficiency may also be the reason for COPD.
It is more common than diabetes, HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis, but very few people know about it
”, said Catherine Hartmann, Secretary General of ECC, the European COPD Coalition. “With such a high number of people concerned, it is puzzling that COPD remains so invisible to the public at large, decision makers, and the general media” she added.