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publicado em:  20 Abril 2012
Poorer people have higher exposure to environmental hazards

The World Health Organisation (WHO, Word Health Organization) warns about the risks faced by the disadvantaged population. It also draws attention to the remarkable differences on the unequal exposure to these risks among European Union countries.

In a recently published study (WHO, 2012), the environmental risks related to housing conditions, unhealthy environments (excessive noise, smoke, etc..), and accidental deaths, were evaluated in the 27 European Union countries, according to several indicators and social determinants. Most data in this publication reports to the year 2009.

Income and poverty variables reveal the larger inequalities especially in the study on housing conditions.

This analysis distinguishes the EU-15 countries(those who joined the EU before 2004) and the 12 countries that joined the European Union after 2004 (NM-12) [1]. Problems related to water supply and sanitation are still an issue among the more recent EU members, being much less pronounced in the EU-15 countries. Overcrowding, damp and thermal comfort however are challenges posed to almost all European countries, especially among low income populations.

About 47% of the population of NM-12 and 10% of the population of the EU-15 is living in an overcrowded accommodation. This ratio is 60% and 20% in the lower income strata (first income quintile) in each region, respectively.

Problems with damp are a risk to 18% of the population of NM-12 countries and to 15% of the population of the EU-15. Comparing the risk between individuals in first quintile with individuals in the fifth quintile of income (20% poorest and richest 20%, respectively), this environmental risk doubles its dimension in the EU-15 (10 % to 20%) and increases almost four times in the NM-12 (8% to 30%).

Failure to keep the house warm in the winter months affects 18.4% of the 27 European Union countries population. For the population in each country, the risk varies between 64.2% (Bulgaria) and 1.7% (Estonia) in NM-12 countries, and between 28% (Portugal) and 0.33% (Luxembourg) in the countries of EU-15. The variations between income levels are more relevant in the latter, where 40% of the population below the poverty line have difficulty keeping the house warm.
The study also identify other social groups that are specially exposed to environmental risks, namley men (accidental deaths), single-parent families (living conditions), or certain age groups (accidents).

[1] EU-15: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, United Kingdom, and Sweden. NM-12: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania.