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IP/10/833

Brussels, 24 June 2010

Environment: Commission requests Belgium, Greece and Romania to implement EU air quality rules

The European Commission has decided to request Belgium, Greece and Romania to implement in full EU air quality legislation on particulates. The three Member States have so far failed to tackle excess emissions of tiny airborne particles known as PM10. The Member States have two months to comply with the requests, which take the form of reasoned opinions under EU infringement procedures, failing which the Commission may refer them to the EU's Court of Justice.

Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "Particulate matter in air pollution poses a serious risk to health. Strict standards are necessary to protect EU citizens. It is essential that these standards are fully respected in zones where time extensions are not applicable."

Directive 2008/50/EC requires Member States to ensure by 2005 that certain limit values for PM10 are met. The limits impose both an annual concentration value (40 μg/m3), and a daily concentration value (50 μg/m3) which must not be exceeded more than 35 times per calendar year.1

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

Information available to the Commission indicates that the limit values for PM10 have not been respected in several zones throughout Belgium and Greece since 2005. Although both Member States applied for time extensions, the Commission considered that the conditions had not been met.

Following the opening of an infringement procedure, Romania submitted an exemption request which is now pending assessment by the Commission. Since several areas recorded as exceeding the PM10 limit values were not covered by this request, the Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion to Romania.

Background: health impact

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 exceeding limit values by Member State:

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/air/quality/legislation/exceedances.htm

Time extension website:

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/air/quality/legislation/time_extensions.htm

For current statistics on infringements in general:

http://ec.europa.eu/community_law/infringements/infringements_en.htm

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