Clean air is a vital resource for healthy lives. Particles in polluted air get absorbed by and affect the health of living organisms. Air pollution causes health problems for hundreds of thousands of Europeans each year.

Air is also part of local and global ecosystem services including precipitation, nutrient cycling, acidity regulation and temperature and climate regulation among others. Polluted air causes environmental problems such as acidification, eutrophication, and climate change.

There are multiple relevant policy areas, from the assessment of air quality to greenhouse gas emissions, that focus on measuring and regulating air quality:

  • The EU Air Quality Directive 2008/50/EC establishes limit values for levels of ozone, NOx, SO2, particulate matter, lead, benzene and carbon monoxide in the air as sampled at sampling points. It sets out monitoring requirements for PM2.5, benzene, carbon monoxide volatile organic compounds and NOx.
  • Directive 2004/107/EC sets target values for atmospheric levels of arsenic, cadmium, nickel and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (defined by the marker substance benzo(a)pyrene), and a monitoring requirement for mercury.
  • The EU National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) Directive 2001/81/EC sets national limits for emissions of NOx, SO2, volatile organic compounds, and ammonia.
  • Regulation (EC) 166/2006, the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register covers emissions for point sources and diffuse sources for 91 different pollutants, including those explicitly mentioned in this section.
  • UNECE Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP). The Protocols to the convention specify targets for reduction in the levels of many atmospheric pollutants, including ammonia, SOx, NOx, non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs), carbon monoxide, and particulate matter (PM10).
  • Reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases is a key component of European action on climate, for which it has commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. There is a monitoring mechanism in place to keep track of these gases in the atmosphere, which was established in Decision 280/2004/EC, replaced by Regulation (EU) No 525/2013. It applies to all anthropogenic greenhouse gases, i.e. CO2, methane, NOx, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride emissions (including their removal by sinks) not controlled by the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer.


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Data sources

There are two main types of data: data derived from monitoring air quality, and data collected from recording emissions.

Air quality data is available from AirBase, the European air quality database, with records dating from 1999. AirBase contains air-quality measurements for a number of pollutants taken multiple times per year from the monitoring stations involved, of which there are several. It also contains statistics derived from this data. This data is reported on an annual basis as mandated by the Exchange of Information Decision 97/101/EC amended by the Commission Decision 2001/752/EC. AirBase is collated by the European environment agency (EEA) and hosted by Eionet. Some AirBase data is also presented within Eurobase (Eurostat). The EEA compiles the annual European Union emission inventory report for the UNECE LRTAP Convention, which maintains its own database for the wider European area.

Emissions data is collated, published and distributed by the EEA, although Eurostat also presents some of this data. Each year, Member States communicate emissions data to the Commission according to Regulation (EU) No 525/2013. Additionally, under the European system of national and regional accounts (ESA), Member States submit information regarding production activities and the supply and demand of goods and services, which allow the publication of environmental accounts, providing details of emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants with a breakdown for various industries and households.

There is a third source of data via reporting obligations under Regulation (EC) 166/2006 on the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register. Some of the data (on diffuse sources) comes from reporting to CLRTAP and the UNFCCC, although it also contains data on point sources, where emissions of any particular substance are above defined threshold levels.

The EAA's air pollution data centre provides access to datasets and visuals, including data from and based on Airbase data.


Eurostat data:

Eurostat Metadata:

Other links:


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