Why do people need settlements for mesothelioma

51997AR0287

Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on the "Communication from the Commission related to the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on the adoption of a 1999-2003 Community action program on pollution-related diseases within the framework for action in the field of public health" C 64/16)

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS,

Having regard to the "Communication from the Commission related to the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on the adoption of a 1999-2003 Community action program on pollution-related diseases within the framework for action in the field of public health" (COM (97) 266 final . - 97/0153 COD) (),

Having regard to the decision of the Council of 27 June 1997 to ask the Committee of the Regions for an opinion on this matter in accordance with Article 129 and Article 198c (1) of the Treaty establishing the European Community,

based on its decision of March 8, 1996 to instruct the commission 8 "Economic and social cohesion, social policy, health care" with the preparation of the work,

based on the draft opinion (CdR 287/97 rev.) adopted by Commission 8 on September 24, 1997 (rapporteur: Ms Bolger),

adopted the following opinion unanimously at its 20th plenary session on November 19 and 20, 1997 (session of November 20).

1 Introduction

The Committee of the Regions (CoR) welcomes the opportunity to express its opinion on the action program proposed by the Commission on pollution-related diseases within the framework for action in the field of public health.

It is high time the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council turned their attention to this aspect of pollution, because pollution-related diseases are on the rise. The Committee of the Regions commends the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council for the determination with which they are addressing the problems of environmental pollution.

The focal point of the discussion about environmental issues is usually the environmental health hazards for the population. Health risks, especially for children, have in many cases triggered violent reactions from those who might suffer. Given the increase in pollution-related diseases across the Union, it is only justified that an action program should be designed and implemented to reduce the risk to citizens, and especially children, as much as possible.

2. Diseases caused by pollution

a) Definition of the term

For the purposes of this opinion, it is understood that the term "pollution-related diseases" means those diseases which are caused, triggered or exacerbated by pollution. In the context of public health, "pollution" can be defined as an imbalance in the environment or an environmental disturbance that is either man-made or occurs naturally and which can adversely affect human health. This environmental damage ranges from water pollution and the emission of chemicals into the air to physical soil destruction. Given that the area of ​​pollution is so extensive, the Commission was right to take a relatively narrow-minded approach in drawing up the 1999-2003 action program on pollution-related diseases. The Commission decided to focus its resources on air pollution-related health problems. Such problems can be due to toxic pollutants, acid rain, urban smog and smoke.

b) Spread of pollution-related diseases

In the past few decades, increasing urbanization, industrialization and rapid population growth have led to an increase in the prevalence and concentration of pollutants. Human settlements have always arisen in the vicinity of the workplace, and this has been a frequent source and cause of air pollution in the recent past. Epidemics due to water pollution and poor hygiene have been largely eradicated, but have been replaced by diseases that can be traced back to a thoughtless way of life and exposure to dangerous air pollutants.

The gravity of the present situation is best illustrated by looking at the magnitude of morbidity and mortality from airway pollutants. It is believed that one-third of the world's health pressures come from diseases, which if one focused on the complex relationship between environmental and other factors, including air pollution, could be successfully tackled.

There is a direct correlation between air pollution and the incidence of respiratory diseases. One of these diseases is asthma, an allergic disease of the human respiratory tract. These ignite in response to a number of environmental factors. In combination with synthetic air pollutants, allergens are probably the most important of these factors - a close relationship between exposure to these factors and the occurrence of asthma has been shown. It is also proven that other environmental factors such as For example, active and passive smoking, viruses, and outdoor air pollutants exacerbate the suffering of asthma sufferers.

The number of deaths from asthma increased by 27% in the European Community between 1974 and 1984. In children, the development was even more worrying: the incidence of the disease doubled over the same period. In Ireland, a relatively low-pollution country, 14% of the population suffer from asthma and the disease causes more than a hundred deaths annually. As in many other Member States of the Union, this number is on the rise.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the most common forms of which are bronchitis and emphysema, as well as allergies have increased rapidly over the past twenty years, causing a significant health problem, especially in urban areas. Since the 1970s, cases of allergic rhinitis in both adults and children have doubled in some Community states. Estimates of the prevalence rate across the community range from 2% to 10%.

3. Risk Factors

a) Outside air pollution

The nature of outdoor air pollution has changed dramatically. While it was once caused by fossil fuel burning, it is now clearly tied to outdoor air allergens and vehicle emissions.

Allergens from the outside environment, such as pollen and animal dander, have a significant negative impact on the well-being of many people during the summer. Pollen allergy, in particular, is a widespread contributor to allergic symptoms such as conjunctivitis and rhinitis. The amount of pollen in the air has not increased over the years. From this it can reasonably be concluded that the rapid increase in allergies is due to the breakdown or weakening of the body's own defense system.

Motor vehicle emissions contain high levels of nitrogen oxides, which under certain circumstances can cause the formation of ozone. And although the public is well informed about the ongoing thinning of the ozone layer and the effects of global warming, the immediate causes of allergic and respiratory diseases are largely unknown.

Avoiding the damage that has already been done to the ozone layer may require a unanimous global response. In contrast, every citizen can easily influence indoor air quality and living habits.

b) Indoor air pollution

Indoor air pollution is ascribed a crucial role in the spread of allergies. The quality of the indoor air is influenced by a number of elements. Radon levels, tobacco smoke, unventilated kerosene stoves, and dust particles are all factors that contribute to indoor air pollution. At the moment it is feared that individual air pollutants, as harmful as they are, in their combined effect are even more cause for concern. The human body may well be able to repel individual air pollutants, but it is powerless against a mixture.

One of the most harmful forms of air pollution is cigarette smoking, and regardless of personal choice for or against smoking, the general policy should be that nobody pollutes the air of their fellow citizens by smoking in public buildings or in public transport.

Society is beginning to develop mature attitudes towards smoking. All the Member States of the Union have laws banning smoking in many public spaces. Even greater efforts have been made at state and regional levels to educate the public about the harmful effects of smoking. Advances already made in this area need to be reinforced on the basis of further research into the link between smoking and cancer and other respiratory diseases. Even though smoking falls under the aegis of the Cancer Program alone, all the information gained from the proposed action program to combat these diseases should be transferable to other areas.

4. Interiors

The environmental conditions in closed rooms have changed in recent years. Large parts of the population of Europe now live in highly insulated buildings with double glazing and without chimneys. Central heating is common and provides high temperatures and low humidity. New "energy-efficient" dwellings are being constructed that are isolated from the weather and consequently contain pollutants. Under such conditions the house dust mite, in Greek "dermatoghanid", i.e. "skin-consuming spider", thrives and reproduces worryingly quickly. Carpets, thick cushions and beds also provide a habitat for the mite.

In such an environment, young children tend to develop hypersensitivity. A child's immune system has no time to develop when exposed to a barrage of adversity from the first few days at home. More than that, parental care may already have exceeded what is actually good for the child. In an effort to protect the child from the elements, parents often surround them with an excess of precautionary measures, rendering the child's immune system useless. The point is to strike a reasonable balance between a child's exposure to the environment and their protection from the elements.

A greater knowledge of the hidden dangers such as B. the excrement of house dust mites, fungal spores and skin flakes from animals can already help to avoid many harmful allergies. The European Commission is right to propose that information campaigns be used to educate the public about the harmful effects of indoor and outdoor air pollution.

One of the most common forms of workplace air pollution comes from asbestos materials. It has been recognized for some time that asbestos can be harmful to human health. Those who are exposed to high concentrations of asbestos particles in the air can contract asbestosis, damage to the pleura, bronchial carcinoma or mesothelioma. These diseases have been found in workers who have inhaled asbestos dust while working.

The Commission, Parliament and Council deserve praise for the introduction of legislation to protect workers from the risks posed by asbestos in 1983 (83/447). However, it remains essential to implement the provisions for the workplace accordingly for the living area. Many houses built in the 1950s and 1960s receive running water through asbestos pipes. The potential for contamination is too high and the Committee of the Regions fully shares the Commission's view that any exposure to asbestos should be reduced as much as possible, using the best available techniques without incurring excessive costs.

In addition to the action program proposed by the Commission, which does not specifically address the eradication of diseases caused by asbestos, the Committee of the Regions calls on the Commission to consider this problem in detail at a later stage.

5. Prevention of pollution-related diseases

The decision as to how far we want to fight air pollution in our country and to bear the necessary costs is of a political nature and linked to the term "acceptable risk". The work carried out under the Fourth Program of Action (Research and Technological Development) to identify pollutants in the air needs to be strengthened and updated. The problem can only be successfully addressed when there is clarity about the relationship between causes and effects in respiratory diseases.

Taking into account Community supported research and environmental legislation, the Commission proposes a tripartite strategy in its proposal to combat diseases caused by pollution. First: reducing the amount of pollutants by taking measures at the source. Second, measures aimed at reducing human exposure to these pollutants. And third, mitigating the impact on the individuals exposed to these pollutants.

While it may seem necessary to reduce the levels of all pollutants, this is not feasible and the costs involved would be disproportionate to the benefits. It is more realistic to pursue the goal of reducing air pollutants with a targeted campaign that is targeted at the individual. Citizens are probably willing and able to change their personal behavior and thus supplement the environmental regulations that have already become mandatory for industrial market participants and car manufacturers. Switching to other modes of transport, changes in the use of fuels and new technological methods to limit vehicle emissions should be promoted in a targeted and prioritized manner in order to achieve faster and broader improvements for public health.

6. Information gathering

As mentioned in the communication from the Commission on the Community action program on pollution-related diseases, a prerequisite for taking preventive action is the gathering of adequate statistical information on the causes and extent of the problems. Exposure figures to pollutants are available in many Member States. However, it has proven difficult to pinpoint the precise relationship between exposure to pollutants and a person's long-term health.

To ensure accurate data, a child's exposure to pollutants must be tracked from the first days of life to the age of full development and maturity. This analysis can be performed with the help of minimal weight personal monitoring devices. In order to analyze a person's exposure to pollutants, it is necessary to know the air pollutant concentrations in the places where the person is and the time spent in the respective room. Constant monitoring of exposure is therefore required. No scheme of human exposure to air pollution can be established without extensive statistical analysis.

The establishment of the European Environment Agency has made it easier to collect some of the data mentioned above. It is imperative that this agency continue to work closely with national and regional authorities in collecting information on air and water pollution. The main air pollution-related problems can often be located at the national and regional levels. It is therefore imperative that the principle of subsidiarity be respected when drawing up an action plan to combat pollution-related diseases in the Union. As the Commission notes, the Community can only act in this area if it can carry out the proposed action more successfully than the Member States. In addition, Community activity must be proportionate to the objectives set.

7. Community action against pollution-related diseases

Since the prevention of respiratory diseases and allergies does not fall within the scope of other Community programs and it has been shown that respiratory diseases and allergies pose a health risk which can be measured in terms of morbidity and / or mortality, the Commission was very right to decide on the measures it proposed focus on containing these diseases.

The Commission has set three general objectives to reduce the rapid spread of pollution-related diseases. The first of these aims is to improve information on pollution-related diseases. Once a comprehensive list of statistical data has been compiled, it may be possible to establish causal links between environmental pollutants and diseases.

The information obtained from this statistical data will give experts as well as citizens a clearer picture of the dangers and the solutions to the problems caused by pollution.

The Commission is also seeking, through a better understanding of pollution-related diseases, to enable competent authorities, both at Community level and in the Member States, to carry out consistent risk management. Public assessments of general health risks are often based on misinformation and then lead to unnecessary concern within the population. While the public is concerned with dangers associated with electromagnetic fields, salmonella or BSE, potentially more life-threatening pollutants can be hidden in the four walls of the citizens. Daily minor exposures to thousands of pollutants in too low doses to be detected cause dramatic damage to our immune system. In addition, the public has consistently underestimated the share of smoking in the development of respiratory and coronary artery diseases.

Information campaigns are needed to educate citizens about the hidden dangers lurking in private households. Dust mites and bacteria thrive when there is insufficient ventilation. Winter temperatures require insulation and heating, but rooms should be well ventilated whenever the house or workplace is left for even a short period of time. Just as people have to breathe, walls, ceilings and floors need air exchange. Information campaigns must encourage citizens to ventilate both homes and work spaces. Local and regional authorities have a vital role to play in information campaigns, as they play a key role both in disseminating information and in changing behavior among the population.

The third strand of the Commission's strategy in dealing with pollution-related diseases aims at activities that directly reduce the prevalence and / or incidence of respiratory diseases and allergies. Measures are planned to strengthen and link information campaigns. In addition, funds are to be used to promote the best possible practice. When developing a European strategy, the Commission should be encouraged to study best practice in each Member State and to focus resources on promoting best practice.

8. The budget

While understanding the situation under the current financial perspective, the Committee of the Regions calls on the Commission to increase the allocation after 1999 of its proposal on diseases caused by pollution. The program on pollution-related diseases proposed by the Commission has a budget of 1.3 million ECU for 1999, in line with the current financial perspective. The Commission has recommended that the financial framework for the remaining four years of the program (2000-2003) be finalized after the future financial perspective has been drawn up. The Committee believes that the expenditure for this program should be increased by a substantial amount after 1999. Substantial resources are required to make a meaningful contribution to the fight against pollution-related diseases. Information is invaluable and should not be challenged by current financial constraints.

9. Summary remarks

The Committee of the Regions would like to thank the Commission for the innovative and encouraging work it has done so far on the pollution problem. This process was complemented by the interest and support of Parliament and the Council.

The task of mitigating pollution-related problems is challenging, but it is certainly solvable. A clear priority in the action proposed by the Commission on pollution-related diseases is to alleviate the suffering caused by pollution to citizens, especially children. Also significant are the gains for the economy and society as a whole from a reduction in the prevalence of pollution-related diseases. Across the Union, many working days are lost each year due to pollution-related diseases. In addition, the burden on the public health system should not be underestimated.

The Committee of the Regions offers the Commission its support for its proposed program on pollution-related diseases. It is essential, however, that sufficient financial resources are made available to enable regional, national and Community actors to make a significant contribution to the fight against pollution-related diseases.

Brussels, 20 November 1997.

The President of the Committee of the Regions

Pasqual MARAGALL i MIRA

() OJ C 214, 16.7.1997, p. 7.