This indicator shows the fraction of the EU-27 urban population that is potentially exposed to ambient air concentrations of six key pollutants (PM2.5, PM10, O3, NO2, SO2 and BaP) that are in excess of the EU limit or target values set for the protection of human health, and to concentrations of these pollutants in excess of the 2021 WHO Air quality Guidelines.
The indicator is based on measurements of air pollutants as reported under the Air Quality Directives and the Decision on the exchange of information.
Methodology for indicator calculation
Information on cities is obtained from the Urban Audit (UA) data. UA data collection, maintained by Eurostat, provides information and comparable measurements on the different aspects of the quality of urban life in selected European cities. The urban population considered is the total number of people represented by any of the urban monitoring stations in the 'core city' and the 'greater city' of the UA cities taking part in the calculations.
Initially, stations in the EEA air-quality database are spatially joined with UA core and, from 2016, greater cities in a geographical information system in order to select those stations that fall within the boundaries of the cities included in the UA collection. The selected stations include station types classified as 'urban traffic', 'suburban traffic', 'urban background' and 'suburban background'. Stations classified as 'industrial' are influenced by other local emissions and such environments are generally not representative for residential areas. The industrial stations are therefore not selected for the indicator calculations.
From 2022 on, the 2020 version of the UA is used.
According to a study for the European Commission by Entec UK Limited, in Europe, on average, 5% of the city population lives closer than 100 metres from major roads and is therefore potentially exposed to concentrations measured at traffic stations. The remaining 95% of the city population is assumed to be exposed to urban and suburban background concentrations.
These percentages vary from country to country. To calculate them, national data on the population living closer than 100 metres from major roads have been taken from Appendix D. These data have been divided by the total population figures for 2001 according to the Eurostat census.
For Croatia and Malta there are no data on the 2001 population in that census, so the data in the publication Europe in Figures – Eurostat yearbook 2006-07 have been used. Furthermore, for Cyprus and Malta there are no data for people living close to roads in the study, so for them, and also for Türkiye, the average value of 5% was used.
For PM10, PM2.5, O3, NO2 and SO2, only stations with at least 75% of valid data per calendar year are used. That is, in the case of daily values, those having more than 274 valid daily values per calendar year (or 275 days in a leap year). And in the case of hourly values, having more than 6,570 valid hourly values per calendar year (or 6,588 hours in a leap year). For PM random fixed measurements and for BaP, the minimum data time coverage accepted is 13% (51 days), according to the data quality objectives related to indicative measurements in the Air Quality Directives.
For every year, each city (i) in country (j), and every pollutant, the total number of urban or suburban traffic stations (nit) and the total number of urban or suburban background stations (nib) are obtained. Ptj % of the total population of the city (Popi) is proportionally assigned to each of the traffic stations and Pbj % of Popi is proportionally assigned to each of the background stations. So, every traffic station has an allocated population equal to ((Ptj / 100) * Popi / nit) and every background station has an allocated population equal to ((Pbj /100) *Popi / nib).
For city and/or greater city geometries with no information on population in the Urban Audit data collection, population data have been retrieved from http://www.citypopulation.de/.
Methodology for gap filling
This indicator is relevant for current European air quality legislation related to the protection of human health in the Air Quality Directives 2004/107/EC and 2008/50/EC. Besides EU policies on air quality, it is also related to the 2021 WHO Air Quality Guidelines for protecting public health.
The objective of some strategic policy directions such as the Seventh Environment Action Programme (7th EAP) is to achieve levels of air quality that do not give rise to significant negative impacts on, and risks to, human health and the environment.
The EU Clean Air Policy Package, adopted by the European Commission on 18 December 2013, proposes in the Communication 'A Clean Air Programme for Europe' the short-term objective of achieving full compliance with existing legislation by 2020 at the latest; and the long-term objective of no exceedances of the WHO guideline levels for human health.
The European Green Deal, adopted by the European Commission on 11 December 2019, will improve the well-being and health of citizens and future generations by providing, among others, fresh air, more public transport, cleaner energy or longer lasting products. The European Green Deal proposes to revise the EU air quality standards to align them more closely with the World Health Organization recommendations. In this context, the Zero Pollution Action Plan, has the 2050 vision of reducing air pollution to levels no longer considered harmful to health and natural ecosystems and the 2030 target of reducing premature deaths due to air pollution by more than 55%, in comparison with those in 2005.
Finally, in 2022 the 8th Environment Action Programme (8EAP) entered into force, as the EU’s legally agreed common agenda for environment policy until 2030. The 8EAP supports the environment objectives of the European Green Deal and reiterates the commitment to the 2050 vision of living well, within planetary boundaries.
No related targets have been specified.
No related methodology uncertainty has been specified.
Data sets uncertainty
No related data sets uncertainty has been specified.
No related rationale uncertainty has been specified.