Pollution shortening EU citizens' lives by 2 years


HEALTH BRIEFING:AIR POLLUTION is shortening lives by almost two years in parts of the European Union, the European Environmental Agency (EEA) has said, strengthening the case for a tightening of emissions restrictions.

Legislation had managed to cut the amount of some toxins belched out by exhaust fumes and chimneys across Europe, an EEA report published yesterday said. But there were still dangerous levels of microscopic particles, known as particulate matter and linked to diseases like lung cancer and cardiovascular problems, it added.

On average, air pollution was reducing human lives across the region by roughly eight months, the report said. It also quoted separate Commission-funded research showing reducing the levels of particulates could extend life expectancy by 22 months in some areas.

The report did not spell out where those areas were, but said Poland and other industrial regions of eastern Europe had particularly high levels of particulate pollution. London had the worst air quality of any EU capital and was the only British city to exceed daily EU limits on pollutants, it added.

Speaking after the launch of the report, EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik said a review of EU air quality laws next year needed to bring EU limits on pollution levels closer to the stricter World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations on safe levels of pollutants. “This is a really serious warning about the importance to our quality of life and health,” Potocnik said. Apart from the impact on health, EEA executive director Jacqueline McGlade said the pollution cost the bloc €1 trillion a year.

Healthcare settings 'aesthetically deprived'

MANY IRISH healthcare settings are “aesthetically deprived through ugliness and noise”, according to one of Ireland’s best known geriatricians Prof Desmond O’Neill. Prof O’Neill, chairman of the National Centre for Arts and Health at Tallaght hospital in Dublin, said he was “very sceptical” of the phrase the “healing arts” and over-promising was something that the artistic fraternity should guard against.

Prof O’Neill was one of the speakers at a debate on the arts in healthcare settings sponsored by The Irish Times and hosted by Irish Times journalist Sylvia Thompson at the Science Gallery in Trinity College Dublin (TCD) last week.

Tallaght hospital last week unveiled an exhibition of works of art by the staff. “If you trust your staff, they will have a sensibility of what the patients are interested in,” Prof O’Neill said.

He pointed out that most people’s engagement with the arts was receptive rather than participative but much of the scientific literature was “obsessed” with the participative arts. He said many participative programmes terrified patients who believe that they must be painting or writing something.

Fellow panellist and Irish Times columnist Dr Jacky Jones said she was not convinced of the value of the arts in healthcare settings. “The problems in the health service system at present are pretty dire. If I had a choice between paying for an artist in residence or having more home helps in the community, I believe the money would be better spent keeping people in their own homes so they can go to the local play or piano recital if they want.”

Nurses to vote for new board

FOR THE first time, the 91,000 registered nurses and midwives in Ireland can vote electronically for the new Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland.

The new board will have a lay majority in its 23 seats.

Previously, 16 nurses or midwives were elected to the board, but under new legislation, that number is now eight.

Eligible voters are invited to visit nursingboard.ieto cast their votes.

Voting closes on October 1st, 2012 at 4pm.