The European Commission decided today to refer Poland to the Court of Justice of the EU over persistently high levels of dust particles that pose a major risk to public health. In Poland, the daily limit values for the airborne particles (PM10) have been persistently exceeded in 35 out of 46 air quality zones for at least for the last five years, including 2014. Additionally, in nine zones the annual limit values have also been persistently exceeded. The PM10 pollution in Poland is predominantly caused by low-stack emissions (emissions from sources with a height lower than 40m) from household heating. The legislative and administrative measures taken so far to limit this persisting non-compliance have been deemed insufficient by the Commission.
Today's decision follows an additional reasoned opinion which was sent to Poland in February 2015.
Small particulate matter or particles PM10 (i.e. particulate matter of a diameter of less than 10 microns) are present in emissions from industry, traffic, domestic heating and agriculture. Such particles can cause asthma, cardiovascular problems, lung cancer and premature deaths which exceed the number of yearly deaths by road traffic accidents. EU legislation on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe (Directive 2008/50/EC) requires Member States to limit the exposure of citizens to these particles. The legislation sets limit values for exposure 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 a calendar year.
Directive 2008/50/EC has set limit values for PM10 since 2005. In case of exceedance of such limit values, Member States are required to adopt and implement air quality plans that set appropriate measures so that the exceedance period can be kept as short as possible. By targeting Member States' failures to act, the Commission is seeking to ensure that Member States will take decisive, problem-solving action.
Despite the obligation for Member States to ensure satisfactory air quality for their citizens, air quality has remained a problem in many places for a number of years.
The Commission is currently pursuing infringement actions for excessive fine dust levels against 16 Member States (Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Portugal, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Slovakia, and Slovenia), and a court case has been brought to the Court against Bulgaria.
The Commission has also started taking legal action on another pollutant, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), for which EU Ambient Air Quality Directive (2008/50/EC) has set air quality standards since 2010. Exposure to NO2 is associated with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Most emissions result from traffic and diesel cars in particular. Infringement proceedings have already been opened against the United Kingdom, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Germany and France. Action against other Member States may follow.
General information on infringements proceedings in the area of Environment.
For general details on EU air legislation, see here.
For current statistics on infringements in the area of environment see here.
On the general infringement procedure, see MEMO/12/12.
On infringement procedures, see here.