Brussels, 5th June 2014 - On the occasion of World Environment Day, EPHA puts the spotlights on the "Know your air for health" website, recently launched by the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) and the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients Organisations (EFA). It addresses air pollution as a major public health concern. Consequences of air pollution range from immediate effects, such as coughing and wheezing, to triggering and aggravating respiratory diseases, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), to people having to be hospitalised for heart problems.
What is the ’Know your air for health’ website all about?
The website aims to break down perceived ideas about air pollution. Air pollutants are released from power generation, transport, manufacture, heating, cooling, waste processing and farming, especially cattle. Natural disasters, such as volcano eruptions, forest fires and desert dust storms also contribute to air pollution.
Air pollution does not stop at our doorsteps. Most outdoor pollutants enter into our homes, offices or schools where people in Europe spend the majority of their time. Contrary to general thinking it is not only urban people who are affected by air pollution, it can be anybody.
Indoor air quality is subject to various pollution sources, such as building construction and decoration materials, indoor allergens, moulds, viruses and bacteria, or furnishings for example.People’s way of living (e.g. cooking habits, whether they smoke indoors, how often they open their windows or which cleaning products they use) also influences indoor air quality.
Health effects of main air pollutants
Air pollution cuts all of our lives short. Air pollution may make things worse for COPD patients and lead to heart problems, even heart attacks or strokes for those patients with cardiovascular problems. Bad indoor air increases the risk of earlier death from pneumonia, COPD, lung cancer and other respiratory diseases; it worsens asthma and allergies and reduces productivity.
What is COPD?
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – COPD – is a treatable, but irreversible long-term respiratory condition which affects the lungs and airways, making it difficult to move air in and out of the lungs. COPD is more prevalent in the lower socio-economic groups and contributes to health inequality. Air quality is essential to the quality of life of COPD patients. 
Who are people at risk?
People considered to be at risk are people who are particularly sensitive to air pollution and who can be more affected than others are:
To reduce their exposure to air pollution, people at risk shouldcheck air quality forecasts and plan activities accordingly to avoid being outside when levels of air pollution are high.
The impact of air pollution on our health: a few figures
As these figures illustrate, the impact of air pollution on our health is overwhelming. The Know your air for health website provides everyday life tips and practical solutions to enhance air quality. These solutions, which ultimately aim at improving our health, are:
Last but not least, the website supports visitors, be they patients, the public or health professional groups to take action and to make their opinion heard on air quality and health. The Know your air for health website encourages people to send letters to decision makers (e.g. newly elected Member of the European Parliament and National Ministers for environment and health) to take action on implementing measures to improve air quality.
Visit the ’Know your air for health’ website !
World Environment Day (WED) is an annual event that aims to be the biggest and most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action. WED activities take place all year round but climax on 5 June every year.
(Source of the photo © EEA Signals report 2013)
EPHA related articles
 COPD affects up to 10% of the adult population in Europe and according to available data,kills between 200,000 and 300,000 people every year. Its economic burden, without taking into account the loss of productivity days, reaches €10.3 billion per year and no EU Member State is immune to the health, social or financial consequences of this disease. However, despite being the 5th biggest killer worldwide, COPD remains largely unknown and an estimated 75% of the people suffering from it have yet to be diagnosed. Unless action is taken, COPD is expected to become the 3rd leading cause of death worldwide by 2030. Yet COPD is largely preventable and its evolution can be stopped when the disease is diagnosed and treated at its early stages. It is therefore of utmost importance to run lung tests for populations at risks, mainly long term smokers, above the age of 40.