Many Europeans are very concerned about air pollution. It damages lungs and airways and can cause asthma, bronchitis and cardiovascular diseases.
Despite a general improvement in air quality, air pollution by fine particles and ground level ozone still causes many premature deaths in the EU every year and reduces life expectancy. It costs billions of euros a year in health care.
Air pollution harms the environment in various ways.
Pollutants like sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and ammonia cause acid rain, which pollutes forests, rivers, lakes and other natural areas.
Eutrophication is caused by high levels of nitrogen-based nutrients making their way into nature. It is a major contributor to the loss of biodiversity. These nutrients filter into lakes or watercourses, triggering algal blooms that suffocate fish and other wildlife.
Ground level ozone damages the leaves of plants and slows their growth, harms forests and wild plants, and reduces crop yields.
Most air pollution comes from the energy sector, domestic heating systems, heavy industries such as steelworks and oil refineries, transport, agriculture and waste treatment.
EU legislation sets strict standards for: