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Brussels, 1 February 2010

Commission decision objects to vast majority of Italy's request for more time to comply with EU air quality legislation

The European Commission today adopted a decision concerning a second request from Italy for additional time to comply with EU legislation on air quality. The decision relates to a request for temporary exemptions in 12 additional zones or agglomerations from the EU's air quality standards for dangerous airborne particles known as PM 10 in the regions of Campania, Puglia and Sicilia. The Commission decision approved a time extension for PM 10 in one air quality zone in the region of Campania but objected to all other requests. Some 20 decisions have already been adopted in 2009 one of them on an earlier request from Italy for different zones or agglomerations. The vast majority of air quality zones in the EU did not satisfy the conditions for a time extension, or were already found to be in compliance with the limit values.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "Air pollution has serious impacts on human health and compliance with the standards must be our priority. The 2008 EU air quality Directive recognises the difficulties some Member States have experienced in meeting the standards for PM 10 by the initial deadline of 2005 and allows the possibility of a limited time extension. However, the Commission expects Member States to clearly demonstrate that they are doing their utmost to comply with EU standards in the shortest possible time."

The Commission decision

The Commission has decided that in one air quality zone in Italy the notified exemption satisfies the conditions in the Directive.

In the remaining zones the Commission considered that the conditions have not been met. In many cases, this is because insufficient data has been provided or because the measures outlined in the air quality plans submitted to the Commission do not demonstrate that the standards will be met when the exemption period expires.

The Commission's assessment also shows that in some cases exemptions will not be necessary since compliance with the limit values has already been achieved. This is the case in four of the twelve notified air quality zones.

In its decision from 28 September 2009 1 on the first Italian notification, the Commission had approved a time extension for PM 10 in 5 zones and raised objections for the remaining 62 notified zones.

With the adoption today of a decision on Italy's second request for a time extension to meet the PM 10 limit values, the Commission has adopted a position on all zones which were known to be in exceedance of the PM 10 limit values in 2007.

Where the Commission has raised objections to requests for time extensions, Member States may put forward further requests if they provide new information to demonstrate fulfilment of the conditions.

Twenty-one decisions on time extensions concerning 18 Member States 2 have now been adopted until now. The Commission decided that the conditions for an exemption from the PM 10 limit values were satisfied in 49 air quality zones in Austria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain. In these cases, it has been demonstrated that compliance will be achieved at the expiry of the time extension period through comprehensive air quality plans.

Health impacts

Airborne particles (PM 10) are mainly emitted by industry, traffic and domestic heating and can cause asthma, cardiovascular problems, lung cancer and premature death.

Air quality legislation

EU air quality legislation sets binding limit values and/or indicative target values for the maximum permitted concentrations of certain pollutants in the air. Action to reduce pollution through an air quality plan is required where there is a risk of these standards being exceeded.

There are two binding air quality limit values for particulate matter (PM 10) based on daily (50 µg/m³, not to be exceeded more than 35 times a calendar year) and annual (40 µg/m³) average concentrations. These entered into force on 1 January 2005.

The 2008 air quality Directive 3 allows Member States, under strict conditions, time extensions for meeting the air quality standards for PM 10 (until 11 June 2011) and NO 2 and benzene (until 2015 at the latest). During the extension period, limit values continue to apply plus a margin of tolerance.

For further information on time extensions:

For further information on limit values for pollutants:

1 :


2 :

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece,Hungary, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Spain and the United Kingdom.

3 :

Directive 2008/50/EC

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