EU agrees on tougher limits to tackle air pollution

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The EU has agreed to impose tougher legal limits on health-harming dirty air which one of its key spokespeople has branded a “slow moving pandemic.”

Member of the European Parliament, Javi López, said: “Addressing air pollution in Europe demands immediate action. This slow-motion pandemic takes a devastating toll in our society, leading to premature deaths and a multitude of cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases.”

Stating that: “We must follow science,” López said that there will be “full and continuous alignment” with World Health Organization (WHO) limits in upcoming reviews of the Ambient Air Quality Directive (AAQD) which enacts the changes. “We need to be ambitious to safeguard the wellbeing of our citizens and create a cleaner, healthier environment.”

Under the new directive, health risks for each pollutant will be tailored to vulnerable groups. Photograph: iStock

The Parliament’s Environment Committee agreed on the revised AAQD on 27 June. It sets new legal limits for particulate matter (PM2.5, PM10), NO2 (nitrogen dioxide), SO2 (sulphur dioxide) and O3 (ozone) and an ambitious deadline of reaching these by 2030.

The EU has been preparing the directive since the WHO released in 2021 (updated from 2005) fresh guidelines which said there is no safe level for air pollution.

It comes as the UK government has come under fire for delaying targets to reduce air pollution by ten years.

Campaign group, Clear Air Fund said that up to 380,000 more lives could be lost to air pollution due to the UK moving the deadline back to 2040. The British Safety Council said targets on particulate matter fell “way short of ambitious.”

Air pollution contributes up to 43,000 early deaths every year in the UK and has been linked to a host of health risks including dementia and heart disease.

As part of the EU directive, air quality indices will have to better inform people how they can protect themselves during high levels of air pollution. Health risks for each pollutant will be tailored to vulnerable groups.



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