Diluting EU air-quality rules risks lives

9th December 2011

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  • Central government ,
  • EU ,
  • Prevention & Control ,
  • Air



The government is putting thousands of lives at risk by failing to adhere to EU air-quality standards, according to the latest report from the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC)

The EAC is highly critical of government ministers’ attempts to water down EU legislation that outlines limits on harmful airborne pollutants, PM10s and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

Air over London has repeatedly exceeded EU limits on PM10 levels, with the EU threatening the UK with legal action in April. Defra is now consulting on a proposed measure to ensure London meets PM10 targets in future, and has also submitted proposals to the European Commission to extend the UK’s deadline to meet limits for NO2.

The new EAC report warns that air pollution is contributing to 30,000 deaths in the UK each year and argues it should not renege on its promise to meet EU safety standards.

“It’s a national scandal that thousands of people are still dying from air pollution in the UK in 2011 – and the government is taking no responsibility for this,” said Joan Walley, chair of the EAC. “Ministers must clear the air in our cities – not lobby the EU to dilute pollution safety standards.”

The EAC recommends establishing a ministerial group to oversee the delivery of a new cross-departmental air-quality strategy and calls on central government to support local authorities in creating low-emissions zones for cities.

Simon Birkett, founder and director of the Clean Air in London campaign, welcomed the EAC’s recommendations and called on the prime minister to take action.

“No parliamentary select committee can ever have published a more damning report of a government’s failure to protect its people from harm,” he said.

The EAC’s report came as the European Environment Agency revealed that the harm caused to human health and the environment by industrial air pollution cost the UK up to €11 billion in 2009.


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