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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.
What are the main concerns for Europe’s air in 2013?

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 (NOx) and ammonia (NH3). These
pollutants can cause harmful atmospheric
deposition of nutrient nitrogen to sensitive
ecosystems, such as grasslands and nutrientpoor lakes.
How does air pollution impact human health?

New scientific findings show that even lower concentrations of air pollution have an effect on human
health if citizens are exposed steadily to these low concentrations. Moreover, a recent review of evidence
on health aspects of air pollution confirmed that effects on human health from air pollution can occur
when concentration levels are below the thresholds established by the WHO Air Quality Guidelines.
Exposure to harmful levels of air pollution
EU urban population exposed to harmful levels of air pollution, according to:
EU limit values

WHO guidelines

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 to health by the World Health Organization’s more stringent
guidelines.
What has been the European policy response?

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
and target values for ground-level
concentrations of outdoor air pollutants.
Emissions have been reduced
EU emissions of primary particulate matter (PM) and PM precursor gases:

EU Member States have made progress in cutting emissions of several air pollutants.
Member States are exceeding emissions targets
2011 nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions compared to NEC emission ceilings:

In 2011, seven EU Member States exceeded their National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) Directive
emissions ceiling limit for NOx. In total, eight EU Member States were not in compliance with
one or more NEC emission ceilings in 2011. These ceilings should have been reached in all
Member States by 2010. Data on NEC compliance are available here.
Countries are exceeding concentration targets

In 2011, 18 EU Member States recorded exceedances of the target value threshold for
ozone (O3) concentrations on more than 25 days.
Countries are exceeding concentration targets

In 2011, 23 EU Member States also recorded exceedances of the EU daily limit value for
particulate matter (PM10) concentrations.
PM concentrations threaten health

Share of urban population exposed to dangerous levels of particulate matter (PM10) in Europe:

3 out of 10
exposed to exceedances of
the EU daily limit value

9 out of 10
exposed to exceedances of
the 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.
Ozone concentrations threaten health & crops
Exposure levels of European agricultural areas to ozone (O3) in 2010:

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 O3 have fallen by up to 32 % since 2002, but there has been no discernible
reduction in O3 concentrations.
Nitrogen concentrations threaten ecosystems
Annual mean concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in 2011:

NO2 can threaten ecosystems through eutrophication. In 2002-2011, NO2 concentrations did
not fall as fast as overall emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx). This is also 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.
Factors contributing to concentration levels

Emission levels are not the only factor that determines concentrations of air pollutants.
Factors like the 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.
Lower emissions do not always lead to lower concentrations
Percentage decline in EU carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter (PM10) emissions and
concentrations between 2002-2011:
Carbon Monoxide
0
-5

PM 10
Emissions
Concentrations

-10
-15

Percentage -20
decline
-25
-30

-35
-40

PM10 emissions are emissions of
primary PM10.
PM10 concentrations are primary
and secondary PM10 measured
at urban background locations.
CO concentrations are daily
8-hour maxima concentrations.

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. PM10).
How can Europe respond to these challenges?
Continued investment in the knowledge base
Together with other techniques, air monitoring stations across Europe feed the knowledge base on
air. While some of the monitoring stations may have been substituted by other techniques, it is
important to maintain, and in certain cases improve the monitoring infrastructure.

Further emission reductions
Emissions of some pollutants from certain sectors have increased over the last decade. For
example, emissions of PM have increased from homes and commercial facilities. Air pollutant
emissions from farming have also changed little in the same period.

Capacity building for implementation
The gap between EU air quality targets and the reality of European air quality points to the need
for better implementation of air quality rules. Implementation can be improved by building
capacity over time and by better understanding the specific problems when implementing
environmental legislation.

Countries to meet emission targets
Too many countries are still not in compliance with EU emissions ceilings. These countries must
make a renewed effort to reduce their emissions.
How does the European Environment Agency contribute?

We gather the necessary information
Taking action on air pollution requires timely, reliable information. The European Environment
Agency (EEA) plays a central role in gathering, quality checking and making available key data that
makes policy development and evaluation possible. Air quality data and information reported by
Member States is available via the EEA’s ‘Airbase’.

We assess information to inform decision-making
Quantifying both anthropogenic emission sources and air pollutant concentrations leads to a better
understanding of what activities contribute most to pollution and the impacts of air pollution. This
helps policymakers to create better, more effective air pollution policy.

We report on air quality
The report ‘Air Quality in Europe - 2013’ and other EEA publications on air pollution assess European
air quality by looking at two main data sources: emissions of pollutants into the air, and
concentrations and impacts of these pollutants in the air.
Air quality in Europe - 2013 report

The ‘Air Quality in Europe – 2013 report’ is available in full here.
Other EEA publications on air quality and air pollution can be found here.

eea.europa.eu/air

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Air quality in Europe - 2013 report

  • 1. Air quality in Europe - 2013 report
  • 2. 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.
  • 3. What are the main concerns for Europe’s air in 2013? 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 (NOx) and ammonia (NH3). These pollutants can cause harmful atmospheric deposition of nutrient nitrogen to sensitive ecosystems, such as grasslands and nutrientpoor lakes.
  • 4. How does air pollution impact human health? New scientific findings show that even lower concentrations of air pollution have an effect on human health if citizens are exposed steadily to these low concentrations. Moreover, a recent review of evidence on health aspects of air pollution confirmed that effects on human health from air pollution can occur when concentration levels are below the thresholds established by the WHO Air Quality Guidelines.
  • 5. Exposure to harmful levels of air pollution EU urban population exposed to harmful levels of air pollution, according to: EU limit values WHO guidelines 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 to health by the World Health Organization’s more stringent guidelines.
  • 6. What has been the European policy response? 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 and target values for ground-level concentrations of outdoor air pollutants.
  • 7. Emissions have been reduced EU emissions of primary particulate matter (PM) and PM precursor gases: EU Member States have made progress in cutting emissions of several air pollutants.
  • 8. Member States are exceeding emissions targets 2011 nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions compared to NEC emission ceilings: In 2011, seven EU Member States exceeded their National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) Directive emissions ceiling limit for NOx. In total, eight EU Member States were not in compliance with one or more NEC emission ceilings in 2011. These ceilings should have been reached in all Member States by 2010. Data on NEC compliance are available here.
  • 9. Countries are exceeding concentration targets In 2011, 18 EU Member States recorded exceedances of the target value threshold for ozone (O3) concentrations on more than 25 days.
  • 10. Countries are exceeding concentration targets In 2011, 23 EU Member States also recorded exceedances of the EU daily limit value for particulate matter (PM10) concentrations.
  • 11. PM concentrations threaten health Share of urban population exposed to dangerous levels of particulate matter (PM10) in Europe: 3 out of 10 exposed to exceedances of the EU daily limit value 9 out of 10 exposed to exceedances of the 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.
  • 12. Ozone concentrations threaten health & crops Exposure levels of European agricultural areas to ozone (O3) in 2010: 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 O3 have fallen by up to 32 % since 2002, but there has been no discernible reduction in O3 concentrations.
  • 13. Nitrogen concentrations threaten ecosystems Annual mean concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in 2011: NO2 can threaten ecosystems through eutrophication. In 2002-2011, NO2 concentrations did not fall as fast as overall emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx). This is also 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.
  • 14. Factors contributing to concentration levels Emission levels are not the only factor that determines concentrations of air pollutants. Factors like the 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.
  • 15. Lower emissions do not always lead to lower concentrations Percentage decline in EU carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter (PM10) emissions and concentrations between 2002-2011: Carbon Monoxide 0 -5 PM 10 Emissions Concentrations -10 -15 Percentage -20 decline -25 -30 -35 -40 PM10 emissions are emissions of primary PM10. PM10 concentrations are primary and secondary PM10 measured at urban background locations. CO concentrations are daily 8-hour maxima concentrations. 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. PM10).
  • 16. How can Europe respond to these challenges? Continued investment in the knowledge base Together with other techniques, air monitoring stations across Europe feed the knowledge base on air. While some of the monitoring stations may have been substituted by other techniques, it is important to maintain, and in certain cases improve the monitoring infrastructure. Further emission reductions Emissions of some pollutants from certain sectors have increased over the last decade. For example, emissions of PM have increased from homes and commercial facilities. Air pollutant emissions from farming have also changed little in the same period. Capacity building for implementation The gap between EU air quality targets and the reality of European air quality points to the need for better implementation of air quality rules. Implementation can be improved by building capacity over time and by better understanding the specific problems when implementing environmental legislation. Countries to meet emission targets Too many countries are still not in compliance with EU emissions ceilings. These countries must make a renewed effort to reduce their emissions.
  • 17. How does the European Environment Agency contribute? We gather the necessary information Taking action on air pollution requires timely, reliable information. The European Environment Agency (EEA) plays a central role in gathering, quality checking and making available key data that makes policy development and evaluation possible. Air quality data and information reported by Member States is available via the EEA’s ‘Airbase’. We assess information to inform decision-making Quantifying both anthropogenic emission sources and air pollutant concentrations leads to a better understanding of what activities contribute most to pollution and the impacts of air pollution. This helps policymakers to create better, more effective air pollution policy. We report on air quality The report ‘Air Quality in Europe - 2013’ and other EEA publications on air pollution assess European air quality by looking at two main data sources: emissions of pollutants into the air, and concentrations and impacts of these pollutants in the air.
  • 18. Air quality in Europe - 2013 report The ‘Air Quality in Europe – 2013 report’ is available in full here. Other EEA publications on air quality and air pollution can be found here. eea.europa.eu/air