EU Air Quality Is on the Rise, With a Ways to Go

     BONN, Germany (CN) – Although air quality in Europe has improved over the past two decades, ozone and particulate pollution is still a problem in many EU countries, the European Environmental Agency reported.
     Analyzing data from 1990 to 2009, the agency said that 20 percent of Europe’s urban population lives in areas where course particulates such as dust exceed EU air quality standards.
     Poland, Italy, Slovakia and Balkan states most often exceeded annual limits for coarse particulate matter. These countries, along with others across Europe, also exceeded the daily limits for coarse particulates, defined as 2.5 to 10 micrometers in diameter.
     The prevalence of particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter was not as well documented. Based on measurements taken, stations in Poland and Italy also exceeded the particulate emissions standard of 25 micrograms per cubic meter, which was the 2010 emissions target.
     In 2006 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed revising the limit for fine particulates to 35 micrograms per cubic meter, replacing the former standard of 65. The stronger standard has been tied up in industry challenges and lacking state enforcement plans.
     A tougher standard for ozone pollution, also opposed by industrial associations, was scrubbed by the Obama administration this past October.
     The American Lung Association found in a report this year that half of the U.S. population lives in areas with unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution.
     Ozone, or smog, also continues to be a problem in the old country. Although emissions of smog precursors declined in the past two decades, 17 percent of Europeans live in areas that exceeded ozone standards in 2009, the European Environmental Agency reported.
     Overall, emissions of unhealthy air pollution in Europe have fallen over the last two decades, according to the agency report released last week.
     The European Environmental Agency urged that air quality in Europe continue to be improved, citing as possible solutions “reducing emissions levels at source, better urban planning to reduce people’s exposure and lifestyle changes at the individual level.”

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