“Poor” air in Brussels is “good” in Krakow – EU report highlights two-tier Europe and calls air quality limits “very undemanding”

The EU’s air quality rules are still too weak to effectively protect our health, yet most governments are failing to meet their requirements, an EU body has concluded in a damning report published today.

The European Court of Auditors’ report also reveals that differences in air pollution alert systems mean that what the European Environment Agency considers as “poor air” is labelled as “good” by authorities in Poland. A mosaic of city-level systems means that “horrible” air in Brussels and Milan is considered “sufficient” in Krakow and Sofia.

A table of PM10 air quality indices reveals differences in air quality alert levels (Source: European Court of Auditors)

The team behind the report also found that in half of the cities they visited, air quality monitoring stations that had regularly reported exceedences had been subsequently taken offline. It found that most member states had failed to properly follow EU laws on air pollution.

Margherita Tolotto, EEB Air Quality Policy Officer said:

 “European air quality laws are breached on a continental scale, yet the scientific evidence is clear: the limits the EU has set are still not strong enough to effectively protect our health. Governments must wake up to this crisis and start to take the threat posed by toxic air more seriously.

On the differences between city-level warning systems she said:

It’s unacceptable that such stark differences exist between air quality warning systems. Children are particularly vulnerable to poor air quality and parents have the right to be effectively warned about dangerous air pollution, which should be defined by the concentration of pollutants in the air and not depend on the city they live in.

On the removal of air quality monitoring stations:

“It’s also unacceptable that monitoring stations that have previously registered high levels of pollution have not always been kept online.  This is the air-quality equivalent of removing speeding cameras because they were or they could be issuing too many tickets”.

Tolotto concluded:

“We support the report’s findings and look forward to additional action to protect people across the EU from the dangers of polluted air.”

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) is Europe’s largest network of environmental organisations with 141 members in over 30 countries.

The EEB has called on the EU to do more to enforce existing air quality laws and for national governments to take serious steps to bring European air quality into line with the latest World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations. The EEB also supports a harmonization of warning systems and tighter rules for locating monitoring stations.

Earlier this year, the European Commission confirmed it was sending Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Romania and Hungary to Europe’s top court for persistently failing to improve their air quality. Spain, Slovakia and the Czech Republic were spared further legal action but warned their efforts would be monitored closely.

For more information:

Anton Lazarus - Communications Officer - Industrial Production, European Environmental Bureau


+32 2 274 10 87

“Poor” air in Brussels is “good” in Krakow – EU report highlights two-tier Europe and calls air quality limits “very undemanding”
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