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The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is the European Commission's science and knowledge service which employs scientists to carry out research in order to provide independent scientific advice and support to EU policy.
The European Commission published today an Air Quality Atlas for Europe.
This new publication produced by the JRC helps to pave the way for targeted air quality measures by mapping the origins of fine particulate matter in Europe's largest cities.
It is estimated that every year over 400 000 citizens die prematurely in the EU as a result of poor air quality: this is more than ten-fold the number of deaths by road traffic accidents.
Millions more suffer from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases caused by air pollution.
The Air Quality Atlas for Europe developed by the JRC provides information on the type and location of the main emission sources of particulate matter in the air of the 150 European cities with a population density above 1,500/km2 and a population above 50,000.
Many of these cities are battling air pollution that exceeds the air quality levels recommended by the EU and the World Health Organisation.
Tibor Navracsics, the Commissioner responsible for the JRC, said: "Thanks to national and EU policies, the air we breathe today is much cleaner than in the past. Yet air pollution remains a problem in many regions and cities in Europe. We must better understand where urban pollution comes from in order to tackle it at the right level – local, national or European. The Air Quality Atlas produced by the JRC provides essential information on pollution sources for European cities struggling with air pollution. It will help cities design air quality plans which focus on their most polluting activities."
The cities with the highest particulate pollution in Europe are located in Southern Poland, the Italian Po Valley and Bulgaria.
In 2015, the annual average and annual maximum PM2.5 levels of Katowice, Krakow, Ostrava, Czestochowa, Plovdiv, Sofia, Lodz, Kielce, Poznan and Brescia were above the EU annual target value for PM2.5 (25 μg/m3).
Nearly all 150 cities have their PM2.5 levels above the WHO recommendation (10 μg/m3). According to data from 2015, only Stockholm, Glasgow, Tallinn, Helsinki, Goteborg, Genova, Clermont-Ferrand were below these levels.
Transport emissions represent an important contribution to the particulate matter (PM2.5) levels in some of the European cities such as Madrid, Spain (39%), Luxembourg City, Luxembourg (30%) and Paris, France (29%) and are a key contributor in densely populated areas like Belgium and the Netherlands.
Although agricultural activities take place mostly outside cities, agricultural emissions contribute to fine particulate matter concentration in many European cities.
The highest levels were found in Dresden, Germany (40%), Braunschweig-Salzgitter-Wolfsburg, Germany (39%), Usti nad Labem, Czech Republic (38%), Pilsen, Czech Republic (37%) and Leipzig, Germany (36%).
Industry plays a key role in city pollution in some of the Eastern countries (Bulgaria, Romania and Greece) as well as in the western part of Germany. The largest contributions were found in Mannheim-Ludwigshafen, Germany (47%), Bilbao, Spain (46%), Linz, Austria (44%), Marseille, France (41%) and Brescia, Italy (37%).
The impact of residential heating is more important in the eastern countries (Poland in particular) and in some cities in Italy.
The largest contributions were found in Warsaw, Poland (48%), Krakow, Poland (40%), Katowice, Poland (40%), Lodz, Poland (33%) and Poznan, Poland (33%).
The Air Quality Atlas for Europe provides a detailed analysis of the sources of particulate matter for the 150 cities. It ranks the sectors that contribute most to air pollution and indicates the share of pollution emanating from local, national and European sources.
The Atlas also clarifies the role that cities, regions, Member States and the EU can have in the reduction of air pollution.
At the Clean Air Forum taking place today in Paris, the Commission also aunched a new Air Quality Index with the EU Environment Agency, which allows citizens to monitor air quality in real-time.
A full press release on the Air Quality Atlas and Index is available online.
EU air quality policy has brought significant reductions in concentrations of harmful pollutants such as particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, lead – and yet, major problems remain. Fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone, in particular, continue to present significant health risks, and recommended limits for health are regularly exceeded.
EU air quality standards are breached in many regions and cities, and public health suffers accordingly, with rising costs to health care and the economy.
The term particulate matter refers to fine solid or liquid particles created by human activities. It includes dust, smoke, soot, pollen and soil particles.
PM2.5 is particulate matter with a diameter smaller than 2.5 μm; PM10 refers to particulate matter with diameter smaller than 10 μm.
These pollutants can be emitted directly or be formed through series of complex chemical formation processes from other air pollutants.
Depending on meteorological conditions, PM2.5 can remain in the atmosphere from several days up to one week.
PM2.5 is responsible of adverse health effects and premature deaths and it has been estimated to reduce life expectancy in the EU by eight to 10 months in the most polluted regions.