EU action to protect human health from air pollution has not delivered its expected impact, according to a new report from the European Court of Auditors. Every year, air pollution causes about 400,000 premature deaths in the EU and hundreds of billions of euros in health-related external costs. However, these significant human and economic costs have not yet been reflected in adequate action across the Union, warn the auditors. They add that particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ground level ozone are the air pollutants responsible for most of the early deaths and that people in urban areas are particularly exposed.
The 2008 Ambient Air Quality Directive is the cornerstone of the EU’s clean air policy, as it sets air quality standards for the concentrations of pollutants in the air. The auditors assessed the Directive’s design, whether Member States had implemented it effectively and how the Commission had monitored and enforced it. Moreover, they assessed whether air quality was adequately reflected in other EU policies and supported by EU funds, and whether the public has been well informed on air quality matters.
“Air pollution is the biggest environmental risk to health in the European Union,” said Janusz Wojciechowski, the Member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report. “In recent decades, EU policies have contributed to emission reductions, but air quality has not improved at the same rate and there are still considerable impacts on public health.”