Exposure of population to exceedances of EU air quality standards
Assessment made on 01 Jan 2002
ClassificationTransport (Primary theme)
- TERM 004
Policy issue: Meet EU air quality standards set for protection of human health
Urban air quality is improving but urban populations are still exposed to pollution levels that pose health risks.
In many places and for certain pollutants, urban air quality has improved significantly over the last two decades, both in the EU and in the ACs. In the EU, this is mainly the result of the introduction of catalytic converters and better fuel quality. In the ACs, the improvement is attributable mainly to economic decline in the beginning of the 1990s and efforts made in other sectors, such as the energy sector where coal and lignite-based pollution sources have been reduced (EEA, 2001a). Current measures will further improve urban air quality (see the results of the Auto-Oil II programme), but in 2010 the European urban population will still be exposed regularly to high concentrations of air pollutants.
The pollutants of greatest concern with regard to their impact on human health at present are fine particles (PM10) and ground-level ozone (O3), to both of which the transport sector is an important contributor. In 1999, 44 % and 97 % of the urban population (covered by monitoring stations) was exposed to exceedances of the air quality objectives for ground-level ozone and particulates respectively. For nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) the situation is much better: in 1999 only 14 % of the urban population was exposed to concentrations of NO2 above the objective and a mere 2 % to exceedances of the SO2 objective.
Insufficient data are available to meaningfully distinguish between the ACs and the EU with respect to air quality. No sufficient data are furthermore available for an evaluation of ambient air concentrations of lead and benzene.
A long-term strategic and integrated policy to protect human health and the environment from the effects of air pollution is currently under development by the EU clean air for Europe programme (CAFE).
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This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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