EU agrees on air quality

European states have agreed on legally binding limits on the airborne concentration of ultra-fine dust.

The new directive on ambient air quality sets standards for reducing the concentration of fine particles known as PM2.5.

Ultrafine particulate matter poses the biggest threat to human health as it can work its way deeper into the lungs than larger dust particles.

The directive adopted this week mirrors closely the European Commission proposal of September 2005.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "The European Union has taken a decisive step in tackling a major cause of environmental and health problems.

"European citizens are concerned about air pollution.

"The new directive on air quality addresses this concern by providing ambitious but realistic standards for fine particle PM2.5 pollution in the European Union."

The new directive merges five existing agreements into a single directive on air quality.

It sets standards and target dates for reducing concentrations of fine particles, which together with coarser particles known as PM10 that already subject to legislation, are among the most dangerous pollutants for human health.

Under the directive Member States are required to reduce exposure to PM2.5 in urban areas by an average of 20% by 2020 based on 2010 levels.

It obliges them to bring exposure levels below 20 micrograms/m3 by 2015 in these areas. Throughout their territory Member States will need to respect the PM2.5 limit value set at 25 micrograms/m3.

Sam Bond


| air quality


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