Air quality failing EU tests

11th November 2013

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  • Natural resources ,
  • Pollution & Waste Management ,
  • Water ,
  • EU ,
  • Ecosystems



Particulate matter and ground-level ozone continue to damage air quality across much of the EU despite falling emission levels and reductions of some air pollutant concentrations in recent decades

A new report from the European Environment Agency, found that between 2009 and 2011, up to 96% of city dwellers in Europe were exposed to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) concentrations above thresholds recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which are stricter than EU limits or targets.

The agency also reported that up to 98% of city inhabitants across EU member states were exposed to ozone levels above WHO guidelines.

These pollutants cause breathing problems and cardiovascular disease, and are shortening lives, says the agency. “Air pollution is causing damage to human health and ecosystems. To get on to a sustainable path, Europe will have to be ambitious and go beyond current legislation,” said Hans Bruyninckx, executive director at the agency.

The report also found that eutrophication – where nitrogen pollution sparks excessive plant growth, damaging ecosystems and threatening biodiversity – is still a widespread problem, affecting most European ecosystems.

This is despite some nitrogen-containing pollutants falling. Emissions of nitrogen oxides and ammonia, for example, have fallen by 27% and 7% respectively since 2002. The agency warns that further measures will be needed to reduce emissions of nitrogen and address eutrophication.

The latest air quality data from the government reveals that, in 2012, 34 of the 43 air quality zones in the UK breached the EU annual emissions limit for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) of 40 μg/m3. The figures were contained in air quality data recently submitted to the European Commission.

According to campaign group Clean Air in London, Scotland faces an air pollution crisis in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Games in 2014 after the figures revealed that Glasgow has the highest levels of NO2 outside London, at nearly twice legal limits.

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