New study on the impact of air pollution and green space on public health


The Mutualités Libres (Belgium) published the results on 11 September to create awareness on the AAQD and the discussion in the European Parliament.

This study was published in the international journal Environmental Research.

The key messages are the following:

  • PM2,5 -concentrations were mapped to the level of about 20,000 neighbourhoods. In the next step, this data was linked to the health expenditure records of 1.2 million Belgian adolescents and adults affiliated to the Independent Health Insurance Funds. The overall conclusion: the lower the ambient PM2,5 -concentrations, the less people need to see the general practitioner.
  • The study also estimates the economic impact of avoidable GP visits, assuming a causal relationship, if all individuals lived in a neighbourhood with clean air (at or close to WHO recommendations – 4.91 to 7.49 μg/m³). Extrapolated to the Belgian population, the avoidable cost amounts to 43 million euro, of which more than 37 million euro is borne by Belgian compulsory health insurance and almost 6 million euro by patients..
  • The study also examined another important factor of influence on public health: the presence of green space. Here, the findings show that those who live in a neighbourhood with more than 30 % tree cover visit the general practitioner less often.

Thus, improving air quality not only benefits public health, but also ensures the financial sustainability of the social security system.