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Brussels, 16 February 2011

Environment: Commission urges Latvia to comply with EU air quality rules

Latvia has so far failed to effectively tackle excessive emissions of tiny airborne particles known as PM10 which, in high concentrations, can be hazardous for humans. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, a reasoned opinion is therefore being sent. Latvia has two months to take appropriate action. Failure to do so could result in the Commission referring the case to the European Court of Justice.

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 limits values which were to be met by 2005, imposing both an annual concentration value (40 μg/m3), and a daily concentration value (50 μg/m3). Theses limit values 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 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 daily concentration limit values for PM10 have not been respected in all zones in Latvia since the legislation was adopted in 1999 and became binding in 2005. While Latvia has applied for time extension for one zone, the Commission considers that the conditions for granting it have not been met.

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, which is why the Commission has sought to regulate these emissions under the Directive.

Further information

Lists of zones in exceedance by Member State:

Time extension website:

For current information on infringements in general:

See also MEMO/11/86

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