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What can

to decreas
e in
Although the release of many
air pollutants has decreased

since 1990, the quality of our

air has improved little in the
past decades. Poor air quality
remains a major public health
problem, with concentrations
of particulate matter and
ozone remaining very high.

The current legislation on

ambient air quality
The 2008 Directive on Ambient Air Quality
and Cleaner Air for Europe5 is one of the
EUs main pieces of legislation on air
pollution. It is the only legislation which
directly addresses the problem of
ambient air pollution (the air we breathe)
by setting a number of health-based
standards and objectives for a number of
The health cost of bad air pollutants. Limit values vary from one
quality is estimated to be pollutant to another and apply over
nearly half a million differing periods of time, as summarised June 2011 (extended deadline) instead of
premature deaths each year in in table 1. 2005 (original deadline). In practice, this
means that the country could not be
the European Union1. In Under EU air legislation, Member brought before the European
economic terms, the annual States must assess the air Court of Justice for its
cost to society of health pollution levels throughout their infringement of limit values
territory. Where the
damage from air pollution in concentrations exceed limit
between 2005 and 2010.
2000 was estimated to amount values set in the Directive, The limit values and
to between 277 and 790 Member States must prepare objectives set out in the
billion2. The average life an action plan showing how Directive are based on
expectancy in the most the limit value will be achieved recommendations made
before its entry into force. by the World Health
polluted cities in Europe is Organisation (WHO) which
Competent authorities also have
reduced by over two years3. the obligation to inform the public are intended to minimise the
However, local solutions do about the assessment and management health effects of air pollutants.
exist and some of them have of air pollution. However, the EU standards are still
already been implemented The new Directive includes a possibility
lagging behind: as shown in table 1,
the EU standards are not sufcient for
with success. This fact sheet for time extensions of three years protecting human health against the
provides an overview of these (particulate matter) or up to ve years adverse impacts caused by the exposure
concrete solutions and shows (nitrogen dioxide, benzene) for complying to high concentrations of sulfur dioxide
that cutting air pollution is with limit values, based on the (SO2), particulate matter (PM2.5 and
assessment by the European
possible and would improve Commission6. If, for instance, a time
PM10) and ozone (O3). The scientic
the lives of some 40 million extension for complying with PM10 is
community and civil society therefore
believe a revision of current EU standards
Europeans exposed to high granted, the country would have to is necessary.
levels of air pollution4. comply with PM10 standards by
Table 1. Effects of major air pollutants
on human health, recommended
guidelines and current EU standards

Health effects7 Guideline values Current EU Air

recommended by Quality standards9
the World Health
Organisation (WHO)8

Particulate matter Coughing; wheezing; shortness of breath: 10 g/m3 annual mean 25 g/m3 annual mean to become a
<2.5m (PM2.5) aggravations of respiratory conditions limit value in 2015
such as asthma; chronic bronchitis; lung 25 g/m3 24-hour mean
damage; premature death; risk of Exposure concentration obligation of 20
cardiovascular and respiratory diseases; g/m3 based on a 3-year average
risk of mortality among young children; (legally binding in 2015)
risk factor for chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease, and lung cancer Exposure reduction target in percentage
among adults to be attained by 2020*

In the EU, the average life expectancy

is 8.6 months lower due to exposure to
PM2.5 produced by human activities.

Particulate matter 20 g/m3 annual mean 40 g/m3 annual mean

<10m (PM10)
50 g/m3 24-hour mean 50 g/m3 24-hour mean with a
maximum of 35 permitted exceedences
each year

Nitrogen dioxide Inammation of the airways; reduced lung 40 g/m3 annual mean 40 g/m3 annual mean in force since
(NO2) function growth; symptoms of bronchitis in 2010
asthmatic children; increased susceptibility
to respiratory infection; alterations, and 200 g/m3 1-hour mean 200 g/m3 1-hour mean with a
damage in the lung maximum of 18 permitted exceedences
each year

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) Damage to the respiratory system and the 20 g/m3 24-hour mean 125 g/m3 24-hour mean with
lung functions; irritation of the eyes; maximum 3 permitted exceedences
inammation of the respiratory tract; each year
coughing; mucus secretion;
aggravation of asthma and chronic 500 g/m3 10-minute 350 g/m3 1-hour mean with maximum
bronchitis, and increased susceptibility to mean 24 permitted exceedences each year
infections of the respiratory tract

Ozone (O3) Breathing problems; asthma; reduction of 100 g/m3 8-hour mean 120 g/m3 8-hour mean with permitted
lung function, and lung diseases exceedences of maximum 25 days
averaged over 3 years

note: g= microgram (one millionth of a gram)

* The percentage is based on the exposure indicator of 2010. If AEI in 2010 is assessed to be over 22 g/m3, all appropriate measures need to be taken to achieve 18 g/m3 by 2020

Little pr og re s s in
cin g p a r tic ula te
redu ti ons
matter co n ce n tr a
Graph 1. Population-weighted concentrations
of PM10 in urban agglomerations of more What is Particulate
than 250,000 inhabitants in the EU* Matter?
compared with WHO guidelines Particulate matter (PM) is a complex
mixture of various things which are
suspended in the air.
PM10 annual mean g/m3 It is made up of nitrates, sulfates, dust and
soot and is easily inhaled by humans,
35 increasing the risk of respiratory and
cardiovascular diseases. It also aggravates
30 respiratory problems such as asthma and
increases the risk of mortality among young
25 children.
PM can come in different sizes (measured
20 in diameter). PM10 is for particles 10m or
less and PM2.5 for particles of 2.5m or
15 less.

10 In addition, ultra-ne particles (less than

0.1m) are particularly damaging to human
health as they have the ability to be inhaled
much deeper into the lungs.
0 According to the WHO, there is no threshold
1998 2000 2002 2004 2006 2008 for PM below which no damage to health is
observed. However, the organisation has
developed standards aiming at achieving
WHO guidelines for PM10 the lowest health damage possible in the
context of local constraints and public
PM10 health priorities.
The graph on this page demonstrates how
* BASED ON EEA DATA, 2010 we are still a long way from reaching these
A lot more still needs to be done.

Th ing s y ou r city
can do to co un ter
air pollution
In most European cities, road
transport is the predominant
cause of air pollution and it is
12 tips to reduce
air pollution in
2Encourage cycling
and walking
shown that living and working
near busy roads substantially
your city It is important to ensure that cycling and
walking are both safe and convenient
increases the total amount of There are a variety of transport measures means of transport. There are many ways
to improve air pollution that can be
diseases attributed to air of promoting cycling and the most
implemented at local level. These important measure is to develop cycle
pollution. While technical measures can, for example, aim at paths and lanes. Where separate paths
progress has to be fostered at improving trafc ows, decrease the and lanes are not possible, trafc calming
EU level to create the number of vehicles, increase the measures, such as 30km/hr speed limit,
necessary framework to clean attractiveness of sustainable modes of can play an important role in cycling
the air, a lot remains to be transport, offer economic incentives for safety. Extensive bike-parking facilities,
the use of cleaner cars or alternative especially at train and tram stations and
done locally to decrease air modes of transport, etc. Such measures bus stops, and bike-sharing systems are
pollution and to meet the EU are frequently integrated in an overall also an effective way to encourage 'bike-
air quality standards. The poor mobility management scheme developed and-ride' travelling. The feeling of safety
real-life performance of Euro by local authorities, transport suppliers, is an important factor for the success of
standards (emissions limits user organisations, car-sharing clubs, any walking or cycling policy and it can
schools, businesses, etc. The more
for vehicles) in controlling be achieved by giving cycling training to
measures and the more partners there young children as well as training for car
nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are the greater the benets to transport, drivers, as has happened in the
emissions in urban health, and the environment. The Netherlands, Germany and Denmark10.
environments across Europe examples below provide an overview of
clearly shows that technical what has been successful in a number of
progress is not sufficient to European cities and can be used as
examples of what can be achieved in
effectively respond to air

1Low emission zones

your city:
quality issues.

Low Emission Zones (LEZs) are urban

areas or roads where the most polluting
vehicles are restricted from entering. This
means that vehicles are banned, or in
some cases charged, if they enter the
LEZ when they do not comply with
certain emission requirements. These
requirements can be linked to
compliance with Euro Standards or to
other criteria such as the existence of a
particulate lter or a catalytic converter.
In Berlin, LEZs have been effective since
2008, and their emission standards
requirements have become stricter in
2010. One year after entry into force,
Berlins emissions of diesel exhaust
particulates had already decreased by
one quarter and nitrogen oxide (NOx)
emissions had fallen by 14%. In addition,
LEZ requirements could be extended to
off-road transport such as rail (diesel rail
operations) and inland shipping.

Things your city
can do to counter
air pollution

3Land use planning 5Lower urban speed

Land use planning measures can also be Addressing ultra-fine limits
considered to counter air pollution.
Because their benets are long term, land
particles In many European cities lowering urban
use and accessibility issues should be The current approach on speed limits has been put in place,
worked out in planning strategies right particulate control is based on PM leading to a signicant reduction in
away so as not to further delay their mass limit values. However, these emissions. In Stockholm, the majority of
positive impacts. The integration of air values may not be adequate to set the roads are now limited to 30km/h and
pollution and health considerations in a limit for the ultra-ne particles are accompanied by a strong
land use planning should become since they are almost weightless. communication strategy as well as
systematic: reducing commuting A more appropriate measuring enforcement measures. Establishing
distances and encouraging cycling and method would use the reference lower speed limits also includes other
walking should become priorities. Air to particulate number benets such as making roads less
quality must be part of a more global concentration (PN). The US EPA hazardous and reducing noise, which in
strategy which aims at achieving clean has already launched a study turn helps develop other transport modes
and sustainable cities. programme looking in detail at the such as cycling and walking. While the
effects of ultra-ne particles and impact of low speed measures depends
exploring the possibility to regulate on enforcement and the compliance of
particles based on number rather drivers, its effects are immediate.

than size11.The European Union
should follow suit and start
preparation for an appropriate PN
Restricting access
Benefits from going limit value. to cars
down to WHO

4Congestion charges
Restricting car access to certain areas is
guidelines for useful for diverting trafc from areas
Particulate Matter with poor air quality. The effects on the
restricted areas are substantial and
EU standards are still above the immediate. Restrictions can be set
guidelines made by the WHO, A signicant part of air pollution occurs on a permanent basis for specic streets,
both for PM10 and PM2.5. Recent when cars are stopped in trafc jams pedestrian residential areas for example,
research shows that a decrease to and reducing congestion is therefore a or temporarily such as in the case of
WHOs annual air quality guideline key action against air pollution. In pollution alerts or during certain times
for PM2.5 in 25 large cities could addition, congestion pricing will also of day.
add up to 22 months of life contribute to partly solve parking
expectancy for persons 30 years problems in cities. In Stockholm,
of age and savings of 31.5 billion where a congestion charge has been
annually.12 There are currently no implemented since 2006, a signicant
specic standards for ultra-ne decrease of trafc has been observed
particles. (trafc entering inner city dropped by
18%). Positive effects include reduction
of air pollutants and CO2 emissions,
fewer accident and road casualties, and
decrease of exposure to air pollution.
Moreover, the congestion tax generates
revenues, which can be reinvested into
the same locality, thereby increasing
welfare. This makes congestion pricing
arguably the most cost-effective measure
to be taken locally.

Things your city
can do to counter
air pollution

7Parking 9Car-sharing 11
Park and ride
management Car-sharing is used to ll the gap created schemes
when public transport, cycling or walking
Regulating and limiting the number of Establishing park and ride schemes can
are inadequate or unavailable. It is a
available parking spaces is an effective be efcient in relieving sensitive city
mobility service which allows the use of
means to encouraging use of other centres but depends on the quality of
one vehicle by different users registered
modes of transport in various cities. public transport. Their success relies on
in advance with an operator that
Paris, Copenhagen and Zurich have the difference in travel times and costs
manages the eet of vehicles. In Lyon,
recently modernised their parking policy between a car trip and a combined car-
the car sharing system has been recently
by decreasing the number of public public transport trip. In Vienna, parking
developed and offers low prices for
parking spaces and by turning free facilities on the outskirts of the city have

individuals and companies13.

parking places into paid ones or increase been established and makes it easy to
existing fees. These measures have the change from individual car to public
effect to reduce commuter car trafc. In transportation (such as underground,

12Promoting electro
Copenhagen, new parking spaces were
created underground for residents while
public street car or bus).

the city closed on-road parking spaces,

hence improving urban space and urban
environment. In addition to its deterrent Measures to increase the

effects, parking management can also attractiveness of public transport
include economic incentives, such as in should be implemented as a package
Amsterdam where owners of cleaner cars including aspects of availability, The promotion of low-emission vehicles

8Public procurement
benet from reduced parking fees. accessibility, reliability, pricing, safety, such as electric vehicles as a
and comfort. To increase speed and replacement of conventional cars is also
reliability, innovative strategies involving an important measure to reduce air
coordination of trafc light signals could pollution in city centres. Various actions
Reducing the environmental impact of be employed to ease the bus ows can be taken by cities to promote electro
vehicle trafc can also be achieved through city centres. In Glasgow, GPS mobility. It is particularly important for
through green public procurement. In signals relaying the location of buses can local authorities to ensure that charging
Copenhagen, all vehicles within the be compared with the actual timetable points for electric vehicles are easily
municipal eet are required to meet low and if necessary trafc signals can be accessible. Some cities are also exploring
emission zones requirements and from pre-empted in order to allow buses to the possibility to equip their car-sharing
1st January 2011 onwards all passenger continue on their journey more quickly. system with low emissions vehicles.
cars bought by the city of Copenhagen Trafc light detection systems are a
will need to be either electric or hydrogen similar strategy currently being trialled
cars. In Berlin, new diesel cars must have in Lyon.
diesel particulate lters, and buses have
been equipped with diesel particulate Not only do these measures
lters for ten years. Provisions on public have an impact on air
procurement could also apply to pollution, most of them also
construction machines that are used in result in substantial secondary
the framework of a public contract.
benefits such as less hazardous
Similar to Euro standards for vehicles, the
Directive 97/68/EC creates emissions roads, a reduction in CO2
categories for these engines which could emissions, less noise,
be used as a basis for selecting the best improved health, and
technologies (vehicles retrotted with decreased congestion.
particle lters and NOx abatement
technologies, etc.).

Urban goods
Urban freight transport is an important
contributor to air pollution in cities,
which can be addressed via a
combination of different
measures such as LEZs,
congestion charging, delivery
restriction, etc. In order to
improve freight transport in
and around some cities freight
operators have also developed
freight consolidation centres
where goods are consolidated
before being delivered to the target areas.
As a result, fewer vehicles are required to
deliver the same amount of goods. Low
emission vehicles such as electric vehicles can
also be used to further reduce air pollution.
Freight consolidation centres have already
been implemented in the Netherlands and in
the United Kingdom and have shown very
positive results in terms of emission reductions
Specific problems and safety benets.
of harbours cities
In a harbour town, for example, it may
make sense to address SOx and NOx
emissions from maritime transport in Other sources
addition to road transport, since the
port itself and shipping are likely to of air pollution
be important contributors to air Although transport remains a major
pollution in the area. Besides cause of air pollution in urban areas
the use of electric power for other sources of air pollution need
ships anchored in port, to be addressed simultaneously.
speed reduction strategies According to recent analyses for the
are a very effective solution revision of the National Emission
to reduce air pollution in Ceilings (NEC) Directive, small-scale
harbour cities. Speed domestic combustion (e.g. wood-red
reduction initiatives have boilers and stoves for domestic heating) is
already been launched in the biggest source sector for emissions of
Californian ports and studies by the PM2.5, responsible for nearly one third of
Californian Air Resource Board (CARB) the total emissions. Currently, there is no EU
indicate that reducing speed to 12 legislation to tackle these sources of air
knots 40 nm outside ports could cut pollution, which stresses the need for local
PM, NOx, SOx emissions by 31%, action. Germany has already established
36% and 29% respectively. emission standards for domestic
combustion installations, and other Member
States should follow that example.

And dont forget to

Look for cities with similar problems Mobilise the public and emphasise the The ultimate goal of these strategies is
and their ways of handling them and get importance of community and individual to bring about a change in the publics
involved in networking and exchanging awareness and engagement. Public behaviour away from a reliance on the
ideas on good practices. information and awareness raising personal car to the support of a less
campaigns on air pollution and how to environmentally damaging and more
Communicate the benets, cost-
tackle it can be determining factors in the sustainable transport system.
effectiveness and positive impacts of
implementation of measures.
different measures. Stress that they will
help improve the quality of life in your city
and save money.

EEB is the environmental voice of European T&E is the principal environmental organisation Air Clim is a joint venture between four Swedish
citizens, standing for environmental justice, campaigning on sustainable transport at the EU environmental organizations with the chief
sustainable development and participatory level in Brussels. purpose of promoting awareness of the problems
democracy. We want the EU to ensure all associated with air pollution and climate change,
Established in 1990, our primary focus is on
people a healthy environment and rich and thus, in part as a result of public pressure, to
European transport and environmental policy but
biodiversity. bring about the required reduction in the
our work in Brussels is supported by 50 member
emissions of air pollutants, including greenhouse
organisations working across the EU to promote
an environmentally sound approach to transport.

Footnotes Additional sources of information

1 According to a recent study by the European Topic Centre on Air 9 Directive 2008/50/EC of the European Parliament and of the World Health Organization,
and Climate Change (ETC/ACC) on behalf of the European Council of 21 May 2008 on ambient air quality and cleaner air for
Environment Agency (EEA), pollution of ne particles is associated Europe, http://eur- European Environment Agency,
with more than 455,000 premature deaths every year in the EUs 27
member states. N:NOT
European Commissions DG Environment,
2 NEC CBA Report 1. Baseline report (May 2007) referring to the 10 John Pucher and Ralph Buehler. (2008). Making Cycling
year 2000 Irresistible: Lessons from The Netherlands, Denmark and Germany.
Transport Reviews. 28(4): 495528. This article is free to download
4 According to the WHO, some 40 million people in the 115 largest ""
cities in the European Union (EU) are exposed to air exceeding p/
WHO air quality guideline values for at least one pollutant,
topics/environmental-health/air-quality/facts-and-gures 12 According to the ndings of the project APHEKOM, the
monetary health benets from complying with the WHO guidelines
5 Directive 2008/50/EC of the European Parliament and of the
would total some 31.5 billion annually, including savings on health
Council of 21 May 2008 on ambient air quality and cleaner air for
expenditures, absenteeism and intangible costs such as well-being,
Europe, http://eur-
life expectancy and quality of life.;jsessionid=196F
6 The assessment done by the European Commission is based on
13 13
conditions laid down in article 22 of the Air Quality Directive.
7 WHO factsheet Air Quality and Health,
8 WHO Air quality guidelines for particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen
dioxide and sulfur dioxide - Global update 2005 - Summary of risk
assessment, We gratefully acknowledge the nancial
OEH_06.02_eng.pdf contribution of the European Commission.