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New web-based air pollution monitoring system

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Ozone Web, a new internet tool, released in Copenhagen today by the European Environment Agency (EEA), offers users the opportunity to monitor and track ground level ozone incidents on a pan-European scale, for the first time.

PRESS RELEASE - Copenhagen, Tuesday, 18th July, 2006

Users can track ozone levels across Europe

Ground level ozone presents one of the most prominent air pollution problems in Europe. Data from more than 500 air quality monitoring stations is sent to the EEA in Copenhagen every hour and displayed in (near) real time on the new web site.

Either by entering a place name or by clicking on a map of Europe, users will be able to follow air quality locally and on a European scale. The web site will also include information on the health implications of the ozone values users are experiencing.

"As a joint European project, Ozone Web reflects the international character of air pollution. It is produced in one place but may have an impact in another many hundreds of kilometres away. The web site is an excellent example of how the EU can create partnerships with member countries to serve and empower its citizens," said Professor Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of the EEA.

Ozone at high concentrations is a health hazard. It can irritate airways, causing breathing difficulties and damaging lungs after only a few hours of exposure. Up to 30% of Europe's urban population is exposed to ozone concentrations above the threshold levels set by the EU. Ozone pollution is responsible for as many as 20 000 deaths in Europe every year.

In the stratosphere - 10 to 50 km above the Earth's surface - ozone protects life on Earth from the sun's ultraviolet rays. Nearer the earth's surface human activities lead to ozone concentrations several times higher than natural levels.

When levels of ozone and other air pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter, are high, they can combine to form a harmful smog. However, the highest concentrations of ozone are not always found in city centres where the pollutants that form ozone are usually emitted. This is because an abundance of nitrogen oxide from traffic, often suppresses ozone formation. As ozone may be transported by the wind over distances of 400-500 km a day, the ozone incident may actually occur in suburban and rural areas far away from the source of the pollutants.

"The EU has made it obligatory for countries to alert citizens on a national level when ozone levels reach particular levels. However, Ozone Web goes much further by allowing you to monitor ozone anytime, from anywhere. You can monitor ozone levels in a neighbouring country or at holiday destination, check recent trends and track the spread of ozone across Europe by the wind," Professor McGlade said.

Notes to the editor:

Users simply log onto Ozone Web (via the EEA site: http://www.eea.europa.eu/maps/ozone).

2005 Ozone episodes

In summer 2005, the most important ozone episodes in Europe occurred between 21-24 June and 14-17 July. During these periods, a number of exceedances of the alert threshold were reported in Europe. The ozone episodes covered a large proportion of Europe including Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Switzerland.

About the European Environment Agency (EEA):

The EEA is based in Copenhagen. The agency aims to help achieve significant and measurable improvement in Europe's environment through the provision of timely, targeted, relevant and reliable information to policy makers and the public.


Contact information:

Brendan Killeen,               
Press Officer
Phone:     +45 33 36 72 69
Mobile:     +45 23 68 36 71  
E-mail: brendan.killeen@eea.europa.eu


Marion Hannerup,
Head of Communications and Corporate Affairs
Phone:     +45 33 36 71 60
Mobile:     +45 51 33 22 43
E-mail: marion.hannerup@eea.europa.eu

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European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100