Health

Seven EU-funded projects tackle the scourge of environmental pollutants


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 400000 premature deaths in the EU each year.

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.

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.

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.

Other topics in this edition include the following highlights:

  • A point-of-care microdevice for accurate cancer diagnosis
  • Making history: crafting a shared cultural identity in Europe
  • What makes time spent travelling worthwhile?
  • World-leading climate models and tools simulate and predict regional climate with unprecedented fidelity in Europe
  • Assessing carabid beetles as a biocontrol for slugs and other pests
  • Translucent, touch-sensitive wood is revolutionising construction
  • The pivotal role of blockchain technology in securing robot swarms
  • Low-cost, flexible and secure Galileo-enabled software receiver in support of Space missions
  • Shedding light on dark matter
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