A year in review for air pollution: still a health threat

2002 saw reports warning that air pollution continues to threaten the health of people living in cities, particularly children. A European programme to monitor daily exposure to air pollutants was launched with the help of thousands of volunteers willing to wear detectors. Satellite records showed Athens churning out greater levels of particulates, while the EU calculated the cost of air pollution.

Switzerland greeted the new year with a report showing the country has the cleanest record for air pollution, while the European Commission adopted reference documents on best available techniques for large industrial installations, designed to prevent pollution. January also saw the results of a study of 3,500 children suggesting high ozone levels may cause asthma rather than just exacerbating it.

February saw the Baltic states – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – promoted as a good place to do environmental business, with potential projects worth €350 million in wastewater treatment alone, and opportunities to help accession countries meet EU directives on air and water quality.

In March the European Parliament and Council agreed to cut emissions from motorcycles by up to 70% , while in April a report by the European Environment Agency warned that children were particularly at risk from hazards such as air pollution.

May’s report showed that while Europe had achieved 3.5% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared with 1990 levels, urban air quality remained poor with regards to ozone and particulates. In June the European chemical industry announced a downward trend in carbon dioxide emissions during 2000.

July saw an Anglo-German agreement simplifying the approval of air monitoring equipment in Europe , while the EU launched a new research network for environmental monitoring.

An International Energy Agency report in August warned that car growth should be curbed in expanding cities to prevent a doubling in CO2 emissions. The UK Department of Environment started consulting on new measures to curb benzene, carbon monoxide and ozone pollution.

September saw the launch of the PEOPLE programme using volunteers dressed with pollution detectors to monitor air pollution in large European cities.

October released a European Commission report calculating the costs of air pollutants, with particulate emissions estimated at €14,000 a tonne, sulphur dioxide at €5,200 a tonne, nitrogen oxides at €4,200 a tonne and volatile organic compounds at €2,100 a tonne. Meanwhile a satellite project funded by the European Commission completed its first phase of monitoring air pollution in Athens, revealing that the proportion of light blocked by particulate matter was steadily growing in the city.

November saw the results of a study of 26 European cities showing that air pollution still poses a health threat to city-dwellers, but reducing particulates alone could prevent 12,000 premature deaths a year . December revealed that Ireland’s dioxin levels are down 16% from 1995 levels to 93 grams in 2000 .

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