Social vulnerability to air pollution, noise and extreme temperatures in Europe
Europe's environmental quality has been steadily improving over recent decades. Nonetheless, air pollution and noise continue to contribute to serious illnesses and premature deaths, especially in urban areas. In addition, recent years in Europe have been marked by extreme temperatures with severe implications for human health. Exposure to air pollution, noise and extreme temperatures does not affect everyone in the same way. On the contrary, the uneven distribution of the impacts of air pollution, noise and extreme temperatures on the health of Europeans closely reflects the socio-demographic... differences within our society. Personal characteristics, such as age or health, determine how sensitive people are to these environmental health hazards, i.e. how badly their health may be affected if they are exposed to them. In addition, people's ability to avoid, or cope with, these environmental health hazards is influenced by their socio-economic status (i.e. income, employment status or level of education). Older people, children, those experiencing material disadvantage and those in bad health are typically more vulnerable to air pollution, noise and extreme temperatures than the general population. They are also the ones who tend to have the least say in how and where they live, work or go to school, which, in turn, affects their exposure to these environmental health hazards. As a result, their health tends to suffer the most from the impacts of air pollution, noise and extreme temperatures.