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Brussels, 28 October 2010

Environment: Commission urges France and Hungary to comply with EU air quality rules

The European Commission is urging France and Hungary to comply with EU air quality standards. These Member States have so far failed to effectively tackle excess emissions of tiny airborne particles known as PM10. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, a reasoned opinion is therefore being sent. France and Hungary have two months to take appropriate action. Failure to do so could result in the Commission referring them to the European Court of Justice.

Directive 2008/50/EC on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe, requires Member States to comply with certain limit values for PM10. These limits, which were to be met by 2005, impose both an annual concentration value (40 μg/m3), and a daily concentration value (50 μg/m3) that must not be exceeded more than 35 times per calendar year.

Member States may apply for exemptions from the PM10 limit values until June 2011, but these exemptions are subject to a number of conditions. A Member State must demonstrate that it has taken steps to achieve compliance by the extended deadline and that it is implementing an air quality plan setting out the relevant abatement actions for each air quality zone.

Information available to the Commission shows that the limit values for PM10 have not been respected in several zones throughout France and Hungary since 2005. While both Member States applied for time extensions, the Commission considered that the conditions for granting them had not been met for all non-compliant air quality zones. France has re-applied for time extensions. The Commission is still in the process of assessing this request.

Background: health impacts

Airborne particles (PM10) are mainly present in pollutant emissions from industry, traffic and domestic heating. They can cause asthma, cardiovascular problems, lung cancer and premature death.

Further information

Lists of zones in exceedance by Member State:

Time extension website:

For current statistics on infringements in general:


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