Network Updates / Luxembourg / 2018-09-21

Air pollution still a threat to EU citizens’ health: auditors:

EU auditors recommend strengthening air quality directive, policy coordination and public information

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European citizens are still exposed to harmful concentrations of air pollution due to weak legislation and poor policy implementation, the European Court of Auditors has found.

A new report from the European Court of Auditors, released last week, concluded that “EU action to protect human health from air pollution has not delivered its expected impact“.

It also warned that the significant human and economic costs imposed by air pollution in the EU were not yet reflected in adequate action across the bloc.

Air pollution is estimated to cost the EU 20 billion euros a year in health costs; fine particulate matter was responsible for three out of four premature deaths by pollution in 2014.

“Many EU policies have an impact on air quality, but, given the significant human and economic costs, we consider that some EU policies do not yet sufficiently well reflect the importance of improving air quality. Climate and energy, transport, industry, and agriculture are EU polices with a direct impact on air quality, and choices made to implement them can be detrimental to clean air,” the report stated.

The auditors noted that articulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ground level ozone were responsible for most of the early deaths by air pollution, and that people in urban areas are particularly exposed.

Current air quality standards were set almost 20 years ago, some of which are significantly weaker than those under World Health Organization guidelines and suggested by the latest, growing body of scientific findings on human health impacts.

The report comes at a time when six EU member states are facing legal action from the Union’s highest court for persistently breaking air pollution limits.

Germany, Britain and France were targeted for failing to meet limits on nitrogen dioxide while Italy, Hungary and Romania exceeded limits on particulate matter.

The auditors recommended that:

• the European Commission should take more effective action;
• the Ambient Air Quality Directive should be updated;
• air quality policy should be prioritised and “mainstreamed” into other EU policies; and
• public awareness and information should be improved.

Read the press release hereAir pollution: EU citizens’ health still not sufficiently protected, warn Auditors
In other languages here.

Read the full report hereAir pollution: Our health still insufficiently protected

Banner photo by Radek Kołakowski, CC BY 2.0.