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Environment

EU air quality standards

The EU air quality standards and objectives are summarised in the table below. These apply over different periods of time because the observed health impacts associated with the various pollutants occur over different exposure times. Under EU law, a limit value is legally binding from the date it enters into force subject to any exceedances permitted by the legislation. For a target value, the obligation is to take all necessary measures that do not entail disproportionate costs to ensure that it is attained, and so it is less strict than a limit value.

Directive 2008/50/EC introduced additional PM2.5 objectives targeting the exposure of the population to fine particles. These objectives are set at national level and are based on the average exposure indicator (AEI). This is determined as a 3-year running annual mean PM2.5 concentration averaged over the selected monitoring stations in agglomerations and larger urban areas, set in urban background locations to best assess the PM2.5 exposure of the general population.

PollutantConcentrationAveraging periodLegal naturePermitted exceedences each year
Fine particles (PM2.5)25 µg/m31 yearTarget value to be met as of 1.1.2010
Limit value to be met as of 1.1.2015
n/a
Fine particles (PM2.5)20 µg/m31 yearStage 2 limit value to be met as of 1.1.2020 ***n/a
Sulphur dioxide (SO2)350 µg/m31 hourLimit value to be met as of 1.1.200524
Sulphur dioxide (SO2)125 µg/m324 hoursLimit value to be met as of 1.1.20053
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)200 µg/m31 hourLimit value to be met as of 1.1.201018
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)40 µg/m31 year

Limit value to be met as of 1.1.2010 *

n/a

Particulate matter (PM10)

50 µg/m324 hoursLimit value to be met as of 1.1.2005 **35

Particulate matter (PM10)

50 µg/m31 yearLimit value to be met as of 1.1.2005 **n/a
Lead (Pb)0.5 µg/m31 yearLimit value to be met as of 1.1.2005 (or 1.1.2010 in the immediate vicinity of specific, notified industrial sources; and a 1.0 µg/m3 limit value applied from 1.1.2005 to 31.12.2009)n/a
Carbon monoxide (CO)10 mg/m3Maximum daily 8 hour meanLimit value to be met as of 1.1.2005n/a
Benzene5 µg/m31 yearLimit value to be met as of 1.1.2010 **n/a
Ozone120 µg/m3Maximum daily 8 hour meanTarget value to be met as of 1.1.201025 days averaged over 3 years
Arsenic (As)6 ng/m31 yearTarget value to be met as of 31.12.2012n/a
Cadmium (Cd)5 ng/m31 yearTarget value to be met as of 31.12.2012n/a
Nickel (Ni)20 ng/m31 yearTarget value to be met as of 31.12.2012n/a
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons1 ng/m3
(expressed as concentration of Benzo(a)pyrene)
1 yearTarget value to be met as of 31.12.2012n/a

* Under Directive 2008/50/EU, the Member State could apply for an extension of up to five years (i.e. maximum up to 2015) in a specific zone. The request is subject to an assessment by the Commission. In such cases within the time extension period the limit value applies at the level of the limit value + maximum margin of tolerance ( 48 µg/m3 for annual NO2 limit value).

** Under Directive 2008/50/EU, the Member State was able to apply for an extension until three years after the date of entry into force of the new Directive (i.e. May 2011) in a specific zone. The request was subject to assessment by the Commission. In such cases within the time extension period the limit value applies at the level of the limit value + maximum margin of tolerance (35 days at 75µg/m3 for daily PM10 limit value, 48 µg/m3 for annual Pm10 limit value).

*** Stage 2: indicative limit value as referred to in Directive 2008/50/EU.

Under EU law a limit value is legally binding from the date it enters into force subject to any exceedances permitted by the legislation. For a target value the obligation is to take all necessary measures not entailing disproportionate costs to ensure that it is attained, and so it is less strict than a limit value.

Directive 2008/50/EC introduced additional PM2.5 objectives targeting the exposure of the population to fine particles. These objectives are set at national level and are based on the average exposure indicator (AEI). This is determined as a 3-year running annual mean PM2.5 concentration averaged over the selected monitoring stations in agglomerations and larger urban areas, set in urban background locations to best assess the PM2.5 exposure of the general population.

TitleMetricAveraging periodLegal naturePermitted exceedences each year
PM2.5
Exposure concentration obligation
20 µg/m3
(AEI)
Based on 3 year averageLegally binding in 2015 (years 2013,2014,2015)n/a
PM2.5
Exposure reduction target
Percentage reduction*
+ all measures to reach 18 µg/m3
(AEI)
Based on 3 year averageReduction to be attained where possible in 2020, determined on the basis of the value of exposure indicator in 2010n/a

* Depending on the value of AEI in 2010, a percentage reduction requirement ( 0,10,15, or 20%) is set in the Directive. If AEI in 2010 is assessed to be over 22 µg/m3, all appropriate measures need to be taken to achieve 18 µg/m3 by 2020.