Revised European legislation setting improved rules on collection, sampling and analyses of air pollution data enters into force today. It amends rules and procedures on the measurement of air pollutants outdoors, and aims to prevent or reduce harmful effects on human health and the environment. The JRC has been entrusted with the organisation and evaluation of mandatory quality assurance programmes for EU Member States.
The new Commission Directive (EU) 2015/1480 sets more detailed and stringent rules on collecting data and prescribes newer reference methods for the sampling and analysis of arsenic, cadmium, nickel, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, mercury in ambient air, and their deposition. It also prescribes more recent reference methods for the assessment of concentrations of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and oxides of nitrogen, particulate matter (PM₁₀ and PM₂‚₅), lead, benzene, carbon monoxide and ozone.
To ensure accuracy of measurements and compliance with data quality objectives, the JRC will organise and evaluate air quality assurance programmes. Member States’ national air quality reference laboratories are now obliged to participate at least every three years and to report to the JRC on measures taken to remediate unsatisfactory results. These intercomparison programmes are already organised regularly by the JRC in collaboration with the network of national Air Quality Reference Laboratories, known as the AQUILA network, but until now participation had been on a voluntary basis.
Member States are required to bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with the new Directive by 31 December 2016 at the latest.
National Air Quality Reference Laboratories are legally responsible for the quality assurance of air pollutant measurements in their respective Member States. Following calls for further collaboration on measuring and monitoring air quality in Europe, the national laboratories and the JRC set up the network of Air Quality Reference Laboratories (AQUILA) in 2002.
Managed by the JRC, the AQUILA network provides expert judgment and promotes the harmonisation of air quality measurements among European countries and partners by activities such as coordinating quality assurance and quality control programmes, method development and validation, participating in standardisation activities, developing common research projects and pilot studies, as well as offering a forum for information exchange though training courses, workshops and conferences.