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EU researchers tackle pollution for a cleaner, greener Europe

Pollution affects us all, from the air we breathe, to the water we drink, to the food we eat. Sometimes it may not be very noticeable that we’re breathing in polluted air, for example, but pollution is actually the largest environmental cause of multiple mental and physical diseases, as well as premature deaths, particularly amongst children, people with certain medical conditions and elderly citizens. In Europe, noise pollution is the type of pollution most commonly complained about by citizens, but odour pollution is also a regular bugbear for many. However, it is poor air quality that is arguably the most pressing environmental challenge in many European countries – according to one 2018 report from the European Environment Agency (EEA), poor air quality is responsible for over 400 000 premature deaths in the EU each year.

“Pollution should never be the price of prosperity” – Al Gore, environmental campaigner and former US Vice-President

From a social perspective, pollution in all of its various guises does not affect everyone equally. People who live in poorer, more deprived areas tend to be more exposed to pollutants, as these areas are often located close to contaminated sites or near traffic-heavy road arteries. Research has found that those who own their home are less likely to be exposed to pollution than those who either rent in the private sector or reside in social housing. People living in socially deprived areas are also more likely to suffer from chronic health conditions, such as obesity, and these conditions increase vulnerability to environmental pollutants. Early evidence also points to higher death rates from COVID-19 for communities that experience a combination of poverty and high levels of air pollution (though of course, more research is needed to fully clarify these interactions). The EU already has stringent environmental regulations that aim to tackle all major pollutants in order to benefit human health and preserve biodiversity and healthy ecosystems, the latter of which is a major EU ambition under its far-reaching European Green Deal. Specifically, the new EU Zero Pollution Action Plan, an important element of the Green Deal, is due to be formally adopted during spring 2021. This Action Plan aims to create a toxic-free environment across the EU by monitoring, reporting, preventing and – where necessary – remedying pollution from air, water, soil and consumer products. The 2021 edition of the EU Green Week that takes place every year at the end of May and beginning of June is also dedicated to the zero-pollution ambition. In this month’s special feature, we meet seven EU-funded projects under the Horizon 2020 programme that have been at the forefront of efforts to tackle the scourge of environmental pollutants, including air, odour, marine and tap water contaminants. From innovative apps that help to put citizens in the driving seat to enact positive change to cutting-edge sensors and other devices that can monitor and actively reduce pollution, these projects show that there are many imaginative and technological solutions to a pressing challenge that truly impacts all of us… whether we’re really aware of it or not. We look forward to receiving your feedback. You can send questions or suggestions to

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Category: Industrial Technologies Industrial Technologies
Category: Project of the month Project of the month