'Air pollution is bad for our health. It reduces human life expectancy by more than eight months on average and by more than two years in the most polluted cities and regions. Member States must comply with EU air quality standards quickly and reduce air pollutant emissions,' Janez Potočnik, EU Commissioner for the Environment (EU, 2010a).
Emissions of air pollutants derive from almost all economic and societal activities. In Europe, emissions of many air pollutants have decreased. Much progress has been made in tackling air pollutants such as sulphur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO) and benzene (C6H6) while other pollutants still present a serious threat to the health of Europeans and their environment.
Indeed air pollutant concentrations are still too high and harm our health and the ecosystems we depend on. A significant proportion of Europe's population lives in areas, especially cities, where exceedances of air quality standards occur. Particulate matter (PM) and ozone (O3) pollution are particularly associated with serious health risks.
Air pollutants released in one European country may contribute to or result in poor air quality elsewhere. Moreover, important contributions from intercontinental transport influence the O3 and PM concentrations in Europe.
Greater international cooperation, also focusing on links between climate and air pollution policies, is required more than ever to address air pollution. Reducing air pollution and improving air quality therefore remains a key priority.
Purpose and scope of this report
This report presents an overview and analysis of the status and trends of air quality in Europe based on concentration measurements in ambient air and data on anthropogenic emissions and trends from 2001 — when mandatory monitoring of ambient air concentrations of selected pollutants first produced reliable air quality information — to 2010.
This report has been published annually since 2011 and updates regularly the information given in the five yearly report 'the European environment — state and outlook' (SOER) of the European Environment Agency. The analysis covers up to 38 European countries (1), including the EU Member States and the EEA-32 member countries.
According to Directive 2008/50/EC on Ambient Air Quality and Cleaner Air for Europe, the Commission shall review in 2013 the provisions related to certain pollutants. This report aims to inform this review and the review of the European Commission's Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution.