Air quality in Europe - 2013 report. Why should we care about air pollution?. Air pollution impacts human health , contributes to climate change and damages ecosystems . Here are some of the pollutants the ‘Air quality in Europe – 2013 report’ investigates and their potential impacts.
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Air pollution impacts human health, contributes to climate change and damages ecosystems. Here are some of the pollutants the ‘Air quality in Europe – 2013 report’ investigates and their potential impacts.
Particulate matter (PM) and its threat to human health.
Ozone (O3) due to its health impacts and harm to vegetation.
Eutrophication from high emissions of nitrogen oxides and ammonia. These pollutants can cause the atmospheric deposition of nutrient nitrogen to sensitive ecosystems, such as grasslands and nutrient-poor lakes.
EU urban population exposed to harmful levels air pollution, according to:
EU limit values
Up to a third of Europeans living in cities are exposed to air pollutant levels exceeding EU air quality standards. And around 90 % of Europeans living in cities are exposed to levels of air pollutants deemed damaging health by the World Health Organization’s more stringent guidelines.
EU legislation limits the emissions of pollutants and sets maximum levels for concentrations of these pollutants in the air.
For pollutant emissions, the 2001 National Emissions Ceiling (NEC) Directive sets ceiling limits for emissions of SO2, NOX NMVOC and NH3. These ceilings should have been met by all EU Member States by 2010.
For pollutant concentrations, two Air Quality Directives (2008/50/EC and 2004/107/EC) set legally binding limits for ground-level concentrations of outdoor air pollutants.
EU emissions of primary particulate matter (PM) and PM precursor gases:
European countries have made progress in cutting emissions of several air pollutants.
2011 NOx emissions compared to NEC emission ceilings:
In 2011, eight EU Member States were still not in compliance with one or more emission ceilings of the National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) Directive. These ceilings should have been reached in all Member States by 2010. Data on NEC compliance are available here.
In 2011,18 EU Member States exceeded the value threshold for ozone (O3) concentrations on more than 25 days.
During the same year, 22 EU Member States exceeded the EU daily limit value for particulate matter (PM10) concentrations.
Share of urban population exposed to dangerous levels of PM10 in Europe:
3 in 10
EU daily limit value
WHO guideline value
Despite the reductions in particulate matter emissions in the period 2002 to 2011, the percentage of Europeans exposed to PM levels above EU limit values remained stable over the past ten years.
High levels of O3 concentrations harm human health and agricultural output. Losses of crop yields also have consequences for the European economy. EU emissions of the precursor gases that form O3have fallen by up to 32% since 2002, but there has been no discernible reductionin O3concentrations.
Annual mean concentrations of NO2 in 2011:
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) can threaten ecosystems through eutrophication. In 2002-2011, NO2 concentrations have not fallen as fast as overall emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx). This is attributed to the increased share of diesel vehicles in the European car fleet, as the proportion of NO2 in the NOx emissions of a diesel vehicle is far higher than the proportion of NO2 in the NOx emissions of a conventional-petrol vehicle.
Emission levels are not the only factor that determines concentrations of air pollutants. Factors like weather, chemical transformations in the air, and transport of pollutants from outside Europe all play a role. This means that a reduction in emissions of a pollutant do not always translate to an equivalent reduction in concentrations of that pollutant.
Percentage decline in carbon monoxide (CO) and PM10 concentrations and emissions between 2002-2011:
CO concentrations are daily 8-hour maxima concentrations.
PM10 emissions are emissions of primary PM10.
Between 2002 and 2011, there was a significant decline in both the emission levels and the concentration levels for some pollutants (e.g. CO). For some others, there was a noticeable decline in emissions, but not in atmospheric concentrations (e.g. PM 10).