Air pollution by ozone across Europe during summer 2011

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Courtesy of European Environment Agency (EEA)

Ozone is the main product of complex photochemical processes in the lower atmosphere, involving NOX and VOCs as precursors. Ozone is a strong photochemical oxidant. In elevated concentrations it causes serious health problems and damage to materials and vegetation such as agricultural crops. The main sectors that emit ozone precursors are road transport, power and heat generation plants, household (heating), industry, and petrol storage and distribution.

In view of the harmful effects of photochemical pollution of the lower levels of the atmosphere, the European Council adopted Directive 92/72/EEC of 21 September 1992 on air pollution by ozone. That directive was succeeded by Directive 2002/3/ EC. Directive 2002/3/EC is also known as the third daughter directive to the Air Quality Framework Directive (Council Directive 96/62/EC of 27 September 1996 on ambient air quality assessment and management). It set LTOs and TVs, and an alert threshold and information threshold for ozone (Table 1.1) for the purpose of avoiding, preventing or reducing the harmful effects on human health and environment. It provided common methods and criteria for assessing ozone concentrations in ambient air, and ensured that adequate information was made available to the public on the basis of this assessment. It also promoted cooperation between Member States in reducing ozone levels.

On 14 June 2008, the Directive 2008/50/EC (EC, 2008) on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe came into force. The provisions of earlier AQ directives (Directive 96/62/EC; Council Directive 1999/30/EC of 22 April 1999 relating to limit values for sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and oxides of nitrogen, particulate matter and lead in ambient air; Directive 2000/69/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 November 2000 relating to limit values for benzene and carbon monoxide in ambient air; and Directive 2002/3/EC) remained in force until 11 June 2010, when they were repealed by Directive 2008/50/EC (5). The new directive does not change the levels of the existing TVs, LTOs, alert threshold or information threshold for ozone.

This report gives an overview of reported Ground-level ozone concentrations regarding exceedances of regulated objectives between April and September 2011, and sets out their evolution and trends from 1997. The EEA has prepared similar overviews since 1997 (6).

The legal requirements for reporting provisional data on exceedances of the LTO and the target and threshold values for ozone during the summer, which form the basis of this report, are summarised in Annex 1.

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