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Commission proposes new air quality limits

The European Commission has adopted a proposal for a Directive setting new ambient air quality limit values for sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and lead. The proposal is the first of a series to be introduced under the Ambient Air Quality Assessment and M...
The European Commission has adopted a proposal for a Directive setting new ambient air quality limit values for sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and lead. The proposal is the first of a series to be introduced under the Ambient Air Quality Assessment and Management Directive (96/62/EC), adopted in 1996. The limit values are based on those adopted for Europe by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1996.

The aim of the new proposal is to provide a high level of protection for public health throughout the EU and sets, for the first time, limit values designed to protect the environment. Mrs. Ritt Bjerregaard, Commissioner responsible for the environment, stated that the proposal "would bring enormous benefits in terms of improved public health". Achieving the objectives would "require a partnership between the EU institutions, national governments, local and regional authorities, industry and the citizens," she continued. "Since we all, in one way or another, contribute to problems of air pollution, we must all be part of finding a solution."

For each of the four pollutants - sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and lead - the proposal sets out new air quality standards, as well as dates by which those standards should be achieved. The target date for each of the pollutants is 1 January 2005, except for nitrogen dioxide for which the target is 1 January 2010. There is also a second lower target for particulate matter to be achieved by 1 January 2010.

In addition to setting new limit values, the proposed Directive also covers the following aspects:

- In areas where air quality is significantly worse than the proposed standards, Member States are to implement action plans to reduce emissions in order to meet the standards by the deadlines;
- Standard methods are to be used to measure pollution, and minimum requirements concerning the design of air quality monitoring networks(number and location of measuring stations) are set out;
- Citizens should have access to information concerning air quality. The proposal sets out basic rules on how and when authorities should provide information on pollution episodes and air pollution in general.

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