Experts at Meeting Propose Policies, Call for Global Ban on Leaded Gas

Conference on engaging health professionals in issues related to environmental health and global climate change

This American Lung Association (ALA) convened a work group of international health professionals to discuss broader involvement of the health community in matters of environmental health and global climate change.

The meeting, "The Public Health Opportunities and Hazards of Global Warming" occurred in Bonn, Germany, October 30–31, 1999, to coincide with the international Conference of the Parties-5 (COP-5), the fifth conference of the world's nations to continue discussing global environmental issues, including climate change.

Key Results

The Problem Addressed

An emerging consensus suggested that global warming is occurring and that it could have a direct and substantial adverse impact on human health. To the extent that health impacts have been addressed, however, attention has generally focused on the possible spread of some diseases previously confined to largely tropical regions.

Despite the scientific recognition that increased atmospheric temperatures may raise ambient levels of ozone and other pollutants to potentially dangerous levels, this issue has rarely been discussed at health meetings. With major international agreements expected to be reached at COP-6 in November 2000, COP-5 was seen as the last significant opportunity to inject new concerns into discussions of climate changes.

The Meeting

  • Some 30 experts — including physicians, scientists, and health and environmental advocates representing public and nonprofit organizations from around the world — reviewed information on the linkages between global warming and conventional air pollutants, and proposed policy responses.
  • They participated in and listened to four presentations and two panel discussions.
  • Participants agreed to organize as a group to continue working on the issue of climate change and public health as it pertains to air pollution.
  • The group also adopted a mission statement and the following policy objectives:
    • To incorporate the immediate public health consequences of air pollution into the formation of climate change policies and measures.
    • To promote the selection and implementation of climate change policies and measures that also protect public health from the adverse effects of air pollution by achieving, whenever possible, reductions in emissions of air pollutants.
    • To ensure that monitoring and assessing the effects of the implementation of climate change policies and measures are an integrative part of policy implementation and evaluation.
  • The group identified two priority actions: ban leaded gasoline globally not later than January 1, 2002; and redouble efforts to reduce ground-level ozone and the pollutants that form it.

Communications
Focusing their major dissemination efforts in California, which has been at the forefront of air pollution initiatives for five decades, members of the group conducted two briefings on the public health ramifications of environmental issues, one in December 1999 in Sacramento, Calif., and the other in January 2000 in San Francisco. The group also is seeking opportunities to collaborate with other national and international organizations.

Funding

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) helped support the meeting with a grant of $44,851 between October and December 1999.

Other support for the meeting came from the World Wildlife Fund ($5,000), the German government ($4,000), and an anonymous donor ($4,000). ALA and Friends of the Earth-US provided in-kind support.

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