It funds PEOPLE (Population Exposure to Air Pollutants in Europe) which has 130 volunteers in Brussels and a further 200 in Lisbon wearing pollution detectors.
EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin said: 'We know that 70% to 80% of pollution comes from road traffic. With the PEOPLE project we are measuring more precisely how much benzene there is in the air we breathe. Benzene is a carcinogenic substance mostly produced by traffic and tobacco smoking.'
He said volunteers were monitoring 50 outdoor sites, such as streets and parks, and 50 indoor sites, such as offices and bars, and that the results will be produced in February next year.
'Despite tough EU emissions standards, benzene still represents a high-risk pollution factor in our cities,' said Commissioner Busquin. 'That is why research has to check the situation on the ground and help enforce legislation. Projects like PEOPLE provide decision-makers, environmental and health professionals, and the general public with a comprehensive snapshot of air pollution in EU cities and the impact on public health.
'This will help policy makers fine tune traffic and transport policies, and enable citizens to make informed choices on personal and health issues, such as driving to work or smoking, to limit their exposure.'
The PEOPLE Project said it supports forthcoming EU legislation on benzene. It uses a new sampler to detect benzene levels over short periods of time.
During spring the Commission will conduct a similar experiment in Bucharest, Budapest and Madrid. This will be followed by Belgrade, Berlin, Dublin, Ljubljana, Paris, Rome and Vienna later in 2003.