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Air quality: WHO Review recommends tighter PM2.5 standards in EU

The WHO, in a review on the health effects of air pollution, has recommended that that the EU should have tighter air quality standards for pollutant PM2.5. Current EU law has a limit value of 25ug/m3 to be met by January 2015, and an indicative limit value of 20ug/m3 from January 2020, subject to a review in 2013. The Review of evidence on health aspects of air pollution (REVIHAAP) concluded that there is a “strong need” to at least lower the 20ug/m3 limit. It found that long-term exposure to fine particles (PM2.5) can trigger atherosclerosis, adverse birth outcomes, and childhood respiratory diseases. It also suggests a possible link with neurodevelopment, cognitive function, and diabetes, while strengthening the causal link between PM2.5, cardiovascular and respiratory deaths. It found that over 80 % of Europeans are exposed to particulate matter levels above the 2005 WHO Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs), which is thought to deprive each citizen of 8.6 months of life. Since the last WHO review in 2005, the evidence to support the association between PM and short-term and long-term health effects has become much larger. This is particularly important as recent long-term studies are showing associations between PM and mortality at levels well below the current annual WHO air quality guideline level for PM2.5. The WHO also suggests maintaining and possibly tightening the EU’s existing standard for PM10. Janez Potočnik, EU Commissioner for Environment responded by saying, “EU air policy must be based on the latest science... The links it has found between air pollution and human health reinforce the case for scaling up our policy: it will be a key input to the 2013 air quality policy review”. Commission press release and WHO report.

Issue 20