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Brussels, 24 November 2010

Environment - Air Quality: Cyprus, Italy, Portugal and Spain taken to Court over failure to comply with EU rules

The European Commission is urging Cyprus, Italy, Portugal and Spain to comply with EU air quality limit values for airborne particles known as PM10. These Member States have so far failed to effectively tackle excess emissions of PM10. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission has therefore decided to take Cyprus, Italy, Portugal and Spain to Court.

Directive 2008/50/EC on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe requires Member States to limit the exposure of citizens to the tiny particles known as PM10. The legislation sets limit values for exposure which were to be met by 2005, covering 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 in any 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.

The information available to the Commission shows that the limit values for PM10 have not been respected in several zones in Cyprus, Italy, Portugal and Spain since the legislation came into force in 2005. While all four Member States have applied for time extensions, the Commission considers that the conditions for granting them have not been met for several non-compliant air quality zones.

It is therefore taking these Member States to the European Court of Justice.

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 information on infringements in general:

For more details on infringement procedures in general, see MEMO/10/605

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