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European Environment Agency reports on air quality

 A report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) gives an overview and analysis of air quality in Europe from 2002 to 2011. It reviews progress towards meeting the requirements of the air quality directives and gives an overview of policies and measures introduced at the European level to improve air quality and minimise impacts. It also details the latest findings and estimates of the effects of air pollution on health and its impacts on ecosystems.

The report finds that while there has been significant progress in cutting emissions and exposure to substances such as sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, benzene and lead, other pollutants such as particulate matter and ozone continue to damage human health and the environment. Sources of air pollution are both local and transboundary. Cross border pollution remains a considerable challenge in Europe. For many European countries, less than 50 % of the observed fine particulate matter concentrations derive from their own emissions.

The Air Quality Directives 2008/50/EC and 2004/107/ EC set legally binding limits for ground-level concentrations of outdoor air pollutants in the EU. The report also refers to WHO Air Quality Guidelines (AQG), which are often more stringent than EU limit and target values.

Current pollution levels, especially of particulate matter and ozone impact on large parts of the urban population. Air pollution's most important effects on European ecosystems are damage to vegetation resulting from exposure to ozone, eutrophication and acidification. As sulfur oxide emissions have fallen, ammonia emitted from agricultural activities, and nitrogen oxides emitted from combustion processes have become the predominant acidifying and eutrophying air pollutants. Several air pollutants also have an impact on the planet's climate and global warming in the short-term. The report argues air quality and climate change can be cost-effectively tackled together by using an integrated approach when defining policies and measures.

At the launch of the report Environment Commissioner Potočnik delivered a speech outlining the Commission’s plans to tackle air pollution. Download the EEA report HERE. For more information you can also read a euractiv article


Issue 28