The European Commission has written to 23 Member States to
request information on what action they are taking to comply
with the EU's air quality standard for dangerous airborne
particles, known as PM10.
These coarse particles - emitted by industry and traffic
- can cause asthma, cardiovascular problems, lung cancer and
premature death. The Commission's action follows the entry
into force on 11 June of the major new EU Air Quality Directive,
which allows Member States to request limited extra time to
meet the PM10 standard under certain
Stavros Dimas, European Commissioner for Environment, said
- "Air pollution has serious impacts on health and compliance
with the standards must be our utmost priority. The entry
into force of the new Directive on ambient air quality and
cleaner air for Europe marks a new phase in the implementation
and enforcement of air quality standards."
The new directive (see MEMO07/571
establishes ambitious, cost-effective targets for improving
human health and environmental quality up to 2020. However,
in recognition of the difficulty many Member States face in
complying with some EU air quality standards, it also allows
for the possibility of limited time extensions for compliance.
In the case of PM10 - for which the
mandatory standard has been in force since 2005 - this time
extension can run until 10 June 2011. It is estimated that,
on average, 40% of air quality zones in the EU currently do
not comply with the PM10
Time extensions will be granted only for zones that satisfy
the conditions laid down in the directive, which relate to
external factors over which the Member States have no direct
control - such as transboundary contributions and adverse
climatic conditions. Outside these areas, the air quality
standards must be fully complied with already.
On 26 June, the Commission adopted a Communication [COM(2008)
403 final)] providing guidance to Member States wishing
to request time extensions. In assessing notifications for
such requests, the Commission will look specifically at the
efforts undertaken by Member States to comply by the initial
deadline - ie 1 January 2005 in the case of PM10.
The Commission must also be convinced that full compliance
will be achieved at the expiry of the time extension period.
In the light of this guidance, the Commission has written
to the 23 Member States that reported exceedances of the limit
value for PM10 in 2006,
asking them to provide information by 30 September 2008 on
the steps they are taking to achieve compliance. This concerns
all Member States except Ireland and Luxembourg - which reported
no exceedances of the PM10 standard
in 2006 - and Bulgaria and Romania, which did not join the
EU until 2007.
In the letters, the Commission makes clear that Member States
are expected to notify requests for time extensions by 31
October 2008. Failure either to achieve compliance with the
standard or to submit notifications by that date will lead
to legal action against the Member State concerned.
The PM10 standard consists of two limit
- a concentration of 50 micrograms (µg)/m³, measured over
24 hours - this can be exceeded on no more than 35 days
- a concentration of 40 µg/m³, measured over one year -
no exceedance is allowed.
For further information - Click
See also page showing exceedances of air quality standards
by Member State - Click