Navigation path

Cleaner air for all

Every year, more than 400 000 people in the EU die prematurely due to the consequences of air pollution: this is more than 10 times the toll of road traffic accidents. Another 6.5 million people fall sick as air pollution causes diseases such as strokes, asthma and bronchitis. Air pollution also harms our natural environment, impacting both vegetation and wildlife: almost two-thirds of Europe’s ecosystems are threatened by the effects of air pollution.

It is time to act to prevent further damage. Find out below how the European Commission proposes to address air pollution in Europe.


air pollutants

What are the main air pollutants?

Click on the images to find out more about each air pollutant.

Primary air pollutants

are directly emitted into the atmosphere e.g. from vehicle exhausts or chimneys.


Secondary air pollutants

are formed in the atmosphere through oxidation and reactions between primary air pollutants.



Other air pollutants can also cause severe damage to human health and the environment. These include heavy metals (such as mercury, arsenic, lead, cadmium and nickel) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (such as benzoapyrene). The existing legislation has already helped to significantly reduce the emissions of these pollutants, resulting in a greatly reduced health risk.


Why are air pollutants a problem?

Click on the air pollutants to see some of their effects on health and the environment.



sources of air pollution

What are the main sources of primary air pollutants?

Click on each air pollutant to see its main source or sources; or click on the sources to see the air pollution it causes.
% = EU average amount in the atmosphere emitted by source.

origins of air pollution

Where do air pollutants come from?

Choose a country and your situation.

Pick your situation to see how much fine particulate matter (PM₂.₅) on average could be in the air you breathe where you live. This provides you with a simulation of what you may experience. Note that these are just general figures and do not give the actual situation.

About the data
About the data
The given numbers are indications of averages for any given Member State and the actual concentrations can differ for different cities and even within cities. The numbers presented here do not relate in any way to the Commission's assessment of compliance with the ambient air quality directive.
It is based on a sample of cities and regions across Europe. The resulting illustration shows you the origins of PM₂.₅, a combination of local, regional and international sources.
Secondary particulate matter
Secondary particulate matter
Secondary particulate matter is a result of reactions or combinations in the atmosphere of pollutants emitted by industry or traffic, for instance, such as sulphur dioxides and nitrogen oxides, with other pollutants. Among these, the most important is ammonia, 93% of which is emitted by the agricultural sector.

action to reduce air pollution

What are the means to reduce air emissions over the next 15 years?

Slide the buttons to see how these reductions might be achieved.

In 2013, the EU proposed a Clean Air Policy Package to further reduce emissions of air pollutants until 2030. Slide the buttons to see how these reductions might be achieved.

Current EU and national anti-pollution laws and policies have done (and still do) much to reduce air pollution. Changes in our energy systems, such as the decline in the use of solid fuels like wood and coal, also help. The current trends, however, are not sufficient to safeguard human health and the environment. We have to take further action.
Why is methane not part of this infographic?
Why is methane not part of this infographic?
Methane is not added to this infographic, as it is subject of ongoing deliberations between the Member States and the Commission in the context of the Energy and Climate Policy for 2030. The Clean Air Policy Package proposes an average reduction target for methane of 33%. Energy and Climate Policy.

benefits of taking action

How would the proposed Clean Air Policy Package improve health, the economy and the environment?

Slide the button to see what could happen in 2030.

The total cost to implement the Clean Air Policy Package is estimated at about €2.2 billion a year by the time we reach 2030. However, about €3.3 billion a year could be saved in direct costs otherwise caused by air pollution, plus a further €40 to €140 billion in indirect costs (for example, related to improvements in people’s health). This means that the expected benefits to society are more than 20 times the cost of implementing the legislation.

Find out more here.


Download images of the infographics for presentation