Revision of EU ambient air quality legislation

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ETSK:n jaoston lausunto: Revision of EU ambient air quality legislation

Practical information

  1. Composition of the study group
  2. Administrator / Assistant in charge:  Gaia BOTTONI / Anna KHATCHATRIAN
  3. Contact

Background

About 300 000 premature deaths per year and a significant number of non-communicable diseases such as asthma, cardiovascular problems and lung cancer are attributed to air pollution. Air pollution continues to be the number one environmental cause of early death in the EU. In this regard, the worst pollutants are particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ozone.

While air pollution affects all of us, it has the biggest impact on the most vulnerable and sensitive groups of society: children, people with medical conditions, older persons, and those living in poorer socio-economic conditions as they often live in areas with higher levels of air pollution.

In addition, air pollution threatens the environment through acidification, eutrophication, and ozone damage, causing damage to forests, ecosystems and crops. When ecosystems already suffer from excessive nitrogen levels in water, nitrogen deposition from air adds further pollution. Today, eutrophication exceeds critical loads in two thirds of ecosystem areas across the EU. This has a significant impact on biodiversity and the services it delivers for us all.

The last update to the Ambient Air Quality Directives dates back to 2008. Since then, new scientific evidence about the health impacts of air pollution has become available. The revised WHO Air Quality Guidelines published in September 2021 recommend introducing stricter air quality standards.

The evaluation (fitness check) of the Ambient Air Quality Directives showed that the current Directives helped to reduce air pollution. Compared to the 1990s, there are about 70% fewer early deaths attributable to air pollution. But Europe's air is still too polluted, to the detriment of our health and environment.