February 7, 2013
As mentioned in last week’s post, clunky terms, and especially acronyms, litter the Eurobubble. Though Spencer was referring to the wonderful world of ILUC, the case is no different when it comes to air quality.
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the Health Effects Institute conference entitled ‘Understanding the Health Effects of Air Pollution’. Though organised to present the latest scientific findings and to assess European and North American regulatory approaches to establishing air quality standards, the conference was well timed to coincide with the release of, here it comes, REVIHAAP.
Let’s engage in a momentary flashback: as you may remember from my last post, 2013 is Europe’s ‘Year of Air’. The EU is currently undertaking a comprehensive review of air policy (the Air Quality Framework Directive and its five daughter directives) with the aim to push for stronger air quality laws which address emissions at the source (see graphic below). Here’s where REVIHAAP comes in.
REVIHAAP is the ever-so-unsexy acronym for the ‘Review of Evidence on Health Aspects of Air Pollution’. The review, conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO, not the Who) at the request of the European Commission, “aims to develop evidence-based responses to questions on general aspects of importance for air quality management, as well as specific topics of interest for individual air pollutants”, i.e. the usual culprits: particle matter (PM2.5 and PM10), ozone (O3) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Why is it important? Its results will be a key input to the 2013 air quality policy review.
Initial results of REVIHAAP, published on 31 January, emphasised the negative impact of poor air quality on human health. The authors concluded that long-term exposure to PM2.5, O3 and NO2 can result in “atherosclerosis, adverse birth outcomes and childhood respiratory diseases” and may be linked with “neurodevelopment, cognitive function and diabetes”; recommendations called for the “revision of air quality guidelines for PM by 2015”, and further modifications to EU law including “development of [Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs] for long-term average O3 concentrations … [and] NO2”. As expected, the importance of the study and the future path of Europe’s air policy review were exposed by Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, who stated that “EU air policy must be based on the latest science … [and that the] links [REVIHAAP] has found between air pollution and human health reinforce the case for scaling up our policy” (emphasis added). The full technical REVIHAAP report will be completed and published in April 2013.
REVIHAAP, however, is not the only report to keep an eye out for: HRAPIE, an even uglier acronym sibling, will follow up on the full technical version of REVIHAAP, and address “critical data gaps” as well as “emerging issues on health risks from air pollution related to specific source categories (e.g. transport, biomass combustion, metals industry, refineries, power production), specific gaseous pollutants or specific components of PM (e.g. size-range like nano-particles and ultra-fines, rare-earth metals, black carbon (EC/OC)), … [and] concentration-response functions”. This work under HRAPIE will be concluded by September 2013, although preliminary findings will be made available to the Commission earlier “to ensure suitable use for the review of the EU’s air quality policies”.
However unappealing the acronyms may be, REVIHAAP and HRAPIE, and their conclusions on PM, O3 and NO2, must be taken seriously. Air quality is a recognised, serious issue, and the review will impact not just your health, but also your pocket.
- The public consultation, launched 10 December 2012, will conclude 4 March 2013.
- The full technical REVIHAAP report will be published April 2013.
- The HRAPIE report will be published September 2013.
- The air quality proposal is set to be drafted early this year, with a new legislative proposal to be published autumn 2013.