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Ozone pollution in the EU still a threat to human health, says Commission

'There is no evidence to indicate an overall reduction in ozone exposure to the EU population', according to the European Commission's annual ozone reports for 1998 and the summer of 1999, which are now available. This is despite there being no violation of legislative limits ...
'There is no evidence to indicate an overall reduction in ozone exposure to the EU population', according to the European Commission's annual ozone reports for 1998 and the summer of 1999, which are now available. This is despite there being no violation of legislative limits on ozone production and even a downward trend in peak values for ozone in the central countries of the EU in the last few years.

The reports conclude that ozone pollution in the EU is still a threat to human health and vegetation, after researchers monitoring ozone concentrations at more than 1400 stations report that values are still well above safety thresholds set in the current EU Ozone Directive. Highlighting the problem, the Commission has expressed its concern that in 1998 citizens in Greece, France and Spain had to be advised to avoid heavy physical activity to reduce their personal exposure to extremely high ozone levels. And the situation is even worse for Europe's vegetation, with ozone levels rising above the vegetation protection threshold ;'widely and frequently' at 94 stations located in 13 different countries on more than 200 days in 1998.

Clearly seeing these figures as cause for concern, the Commission has made two new proposals for directives to combat pollution by ozone. One sets national emissions ceilings for certain atmospheric pollutants, and the other is a proposal to combat ground level ozone. Commissioner for the Environment, Margot Wallström, presented the new proposals to the Environment Council in Luxembourg on 12 October describing them as 'ambitious but realistic'. The proposals aim to reduce the ozone exposure in Europe by 70% from the levels in 1990 within the next decade.

The proposals set national emission ceilings for sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and ammonia as a follow up from the Acidification strategy, adopted by the Commission in March 1997. The Commission wants to establish the limits so that underlying environmental objectives can be met in the most cost-effective manner, while at the same time reflecting the polluter-pays principle.
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