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European Commission - Press release

Air quality: Commission urges Italy to take action against small particulate matter (PM10) to safeguard public health

Brussels, 27 April 2017

As Italy has failed to address persistently high levels of small particulate matter (PM10) which pose a major risk to public health, the European Commission requests Italy to take appropriate actions against PM10 in order to ensure good air quality and safeguard public health.

The PM10 pollution in Italy is predominantly caused by emissions from energy and heating, transport, industry and agriculture.

More than 66 000 people die prematurely in Italy each year as a result of particulate matter pollution, making it the most affected of all Member States in terms of PM-related mortality, according to estimates by the European Environment Agency (EEA).

This is a final warning and it covers 30 air quality zones across Italy, where the daily limit values for the airborne particles (PM10) have been exceeded since they came into force on 1 January 2005. Italy was already found in breach of the relevant EU legislation in an earlier ruling of the Court of Justice of the EU (see the Court ruling of 19 December 2012, C-68/11), concerning years 2006 and 2007.

For the daily limit value, the 30 affected zones are in the regions of: Lombardia, Veneto, Piemonte, Toscana, Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Umbria, Campania, Marche, Molise, Puglia, Lazio and Sicilia. In addition, this warning also refers to exceedances of the annual limit value in 9 zones: Venezia-Treviso, Vicenza, Milano, Brescia, two zones of Pianura lombarda, Torino and Valle del Sacco (Lazio).

In cases of exceedance of air quality limit values, Member States are required to adopt and implement air quality plans that set out appropriate measures to bring exceedances to an end as soon as possible. The legislative and administrative measures taken by Italy so far have proven to be insufficient to address the problem.

Today's decision follows an additional letter of formal notice which was sent to Italy in June 2016. If Italy fails to act within two months, the case may be referred to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Background

Small particulate matter or 'PM10' particles are present in emissions from energy and heating, transport, industry and agriculture. Such particles can cause asthma, cardiovascular problems and lung cancer, resulting in premature deaths which exceed the number of yearly deaths by road traffic accidents.

EU law 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 limit value (40 μg/m3) and a daily concentration limit value (50 μg/m3) that must not be exceeded more than 35 times in a calendar year.

Despite the obligation for Member States to ensure satisfactory air quality for their citizens, concentrations of PM10 particles still remain a problem in many places.

The Commission is currently pursuing infringement actions for excessive levels of PM10 particles against 16 Member States (Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Portugal, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Slovakia, and Slovenia), and two of these cases (against Bulgaria and Poland) have been brought before the Court of Justice of the EU.

Furthermore, the Commission has also initiated legal action on NO2 involving 12 Member States to date, with ongoing infringement cases against Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom.

For More Information

-  On the overview of implementation of EU environment policies and laws in Member States, see Environmental Implementation Review.

-  General information on infringements proceedings in the areas of Environment.

-  On the key decisions in the April 2017 infringements package, see full MEMO/17/1045.

-  On the general infringements procedure, see MEMO/12/12(an info graph).

-  On the EU infringements procedure.

IP/17/1046

Press contacts:

General public inquiries: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 67 89 10 11 or by email


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